Vancouver Riots 2011 - live from ground zero

Wow Vancouver, what happened?

The Stanley Cup final game was meant to be a time for Vancouver to celebrate, an epic moment in our sports history. Win or lose, we could be proud of our team's startling success over the past ten months.

But no, we had to go crazy. I watched the game on Davie Street with a gaggle of guys and gals, Irish and Canadians included, and as the goals piled up we debated how people would react and if there would be riots like in '94. The general consensus was that, yes, there would probably be a small minority who would use this loss as an excuse to create mindless anarchy in the streets - potentially because Canadians don't really have much to riot about to be honest - but we could never have imagined what was about to go down.

After the game and the disastrous defeat, we decided to go downtown to witness the aftermath, especially as we saw huge clouds of black smoke rising into the sky. I was quite apprehensive that we'd get embroiled in the madness, but the melee seemed to be centred around West Georgia Street and Robson so we stayed away at a safe distance.

However, by the time we arrived down to Granville Street at about 9pm, the unusual smell and burning sensation of tear gas already clung to the air. I'd never smelled tear gas before, and really didn't think it would ever be something I'd come across in my lifetime (I'm not the anarchist type!)

We actually even bumped into one of the Green Men (although I don't really think he was the real thing, he looked a bit...how shall I put this diplomatically...bumpier than the authentic lycra body-suited pair known for their energetic antics outside the opposition team's penalty box during playoff games!)

It was only when we heard sirens and saw giant flames on the horizon that we snapped out of our giddy moods and took in the full scale of events happening right around us. In the distance we could see cars burning and fire brigades attempting to get through the crowds to do their jobs, while a lightly armoured riot police squad came towards the middle of Granville looking ominous and looking to block it off. So, we thought it best to make a swift exit before we actually got on the wrong side of the law. My employer would not like that!

We knew it was chaos but it wasn't until I woke up this morning and turned on the news and social networking sites that I realized with horror just how far these maniacs had gone.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw people bare knuckle fighting, hurling debris at police, flipping cars, setting fire to anything they could get their grubby little hands on from trash cans, to cars, to trucks, to probably each other if they've been allowed to carry on any longer. [I'm sure you've all seen the video of a silly boy falling into fire on the top of a car. Talk about lucky. And what a twerp.]

I was probably more horrified than anything to hear there was looting also. LOOTING, is this Vancouver or some bad dream? We don't LOOT in Vancouver, it's so...undignified! How could you possibly keep those stolen products without a guilty conscience getting the better of you? Maybe I'm naive, and I'm sure the culprits would sell on the ill-begotten gains immediately, but some people have no class, really. That's disgraceful behaviour for a civilized country, and one of the most respected in the world, and well liked.

I know a lot of Canadians will fear they'll be tarred with the same brush, while others believe it's just some sore loser Canucks fans who are only "bandwagoners" anyway, but the truth is that the whole world saw this and it's embarrassing. I'm not even from Canada but I'm so proud of this place and I was mortified to think other countries would be judging us, thinking that this is what Vancouver is really about.


What about those 'Ya Gotta Be Here' ads splashed across our TV screens during the Vancouver Winter Olympics, with Vancouver's finest Michael J. Fox and Ryan Reynolds with a whole host of other local superstars exalting the uniqueness of beautiful BC and all its glory? These are not the images I know!

I'm always telling anyone who'll listen about the utter "awesomeness" of Canada, and of Vancouver in particular, and that Canadians are some of the most polite and most peaceful people I've ever met. What will they think of us now? I was embarrassed to think of my parents opening up their local papers to see my beautiful city up in flames over a bloomin' cup, no matter how shiny or covetable it seems. They were worried for me too, which is a bad sign in any developed country. The scenes reminded me of recent riots in Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, you name it, but not North America or Canada!

On the coverage this morning I saw a lot of girls involved too. Girls, what are you thinking? This is not the way to behave. I can be hot-headed at the best of times, and sometimes do things spontaneously that I'll regret later (actually, make that a lot of the time!), but I could never imagine joining in on smashing car windows or causing senseless damage to shop displays. What's the point? Someone owns that car - how would you feel if it belonged to you or one of your loved ones? It's disgraceful, and so futile.

And why is there always one clueless girl flashing? Talk about letting the side down! I found it funny that the guy in the pic splashed across the daily papers seems to be offering her a t-shirt, like "Cover up, love!" These ladies need a stern lesson in female etiquette, or even a thing or two about the feminist movement...oh how far we've come!

What do these vacant-minded vandals hope to achieve? To look cool in front of their friends? To try to "fight the system" in any little way they can? No, this wasn't about a message as some rioters were trying to make the rest of us believe. This was not a "protest" against police, or the government. The simple fact of the matter is that this was not anarchy, this was idiocy. These dopes had no political message, no deep-seated bitterness.

Canada is a great country with (mostly) great people, so it's just about bad showmanship. And I know more than anything men hate to be accused of bad showmanship [I've done it on many occasions to my peril!] These guys and girls were brats for being losers and orchestrated a mass throwing of toys out of the pram. And when I say toys I mean digital equipment, jewellery, perfume, clothes, shoes. And when I say pram I mean huge stores like The Bay, Sears, Futureshop, and even Chapters. Chapters?! Wait, you guys are gonna loot books?! I mean, I'm all for spreading literacy and encouraging people to read more, but this is no publisher's ideal scenario to spread their wordy message!!

What about the guy in that video clip taken by a useless bystander, who tries to stop the angry mob at The Bay and ends up being beaten to a pulp on the ground for his efforts. That guy's a hero, plain and simple. Some rioters tried lamely to protect him once the worst was over but it was too late, he was immobile. What did he ever do to you? What if this man was your brother, your husband, or your father? How would you treat him then? This capped crusader (excuse the pun) was only trying to protect his city and this is the thanks he gets? Remind you of anyone...Batman??!!

Now, I know moods can turn animalistic in incidences like this, and people do things that they normally wouldn't do - such as punch and kick a defenseless man lying in the foetal position - but these situations really make me question humanity and how far we've actually evolved from the apes. If your morals can go out the window just like that, after a few drinks, what else is the human race en masse capable of?? It's so vicious and, quite frankly, incredibly frightening to think people can just switch off their moral pendulum as required to make such a poor lapse in judgement.

In my opinion, these people who just stood by and watched it all happen, taking pictures beside burned out cars, are just as culpable as those who actually lit the fires. I know it's dangerous, and ill-advised really, to try to take on huge crowds like that because they can turn on you at any moment, but I honestly think I'd have to try to stop them too. Girls can sometimes be the voice of reason in these situations when testosterone is running high and men tend to move in packs, and behave as such.

After all, no (respectable) guy wants to punch a girl and they're more likely to listen and empathize with your plight than with a guy. But, of course, some criminals still managed to take it too far by pushing peace-making women out of the way. Nice guys, real nice. I hope you're proud of yourselves this morning. I hope you take a realllll long look in the mirror. That's my boy.

And the poor lone Boston Bruins fan who was seemingly attacked out of nowhere and hit the ground, worryingly no longer moving. Oh and that now infamous photo showing a couple in a passionate clinch. There's a time and a place folks!


Or reports that a young man fell or, more likely, was pushed from the Georgia Viaduct and is in critical condition in hospital as we speak??? Nice.

However, in true Vancouver fashion it wasn't long before the vast majority of decent citizens in this fine nation stood up to be counted. Within hours of the drama unfolding, a Facebook page had been set up by a good smaritan rallying everyone together this time to do good - to clean up our streets, literally. This encompassed not only cleaning away the debris and broken glass, but also the scum who'd done this in the first page. Several other Facebook pages and even websites were set up in a hurry to capture these thugs. Members of the public who had any pictures or videos of the angry mob were encouraged to upload their footage in a sort of 'online citizen's arrest' that seems to have worked.

Another new site, dubbed the Vancouver 2011 Riot Criminal List has been created on the microblogging service Tumblr, with pictures actually identifying rioters. Vancouver police were also looking for evidence, while Vancouverites ventured downtown again today to write messages of support on the newly boarded up windows.


There were even "I survived..." tees mocked up within a day...I guess that beats "I witnessed the Vancouver riots and all I got was this crappy t-shirt!" eh?!

The Canucks themselves issued a statement apologizing to the city for their loss and for the riots. Brave boys but this fallout is not your fault. Yes, you played disappointingly and we think you could've done better - we've seen you do better, much better - but the repsonsibility for this charade of fanaticism lies squarely with the morons who seemingly brought Molotov cocktails to the game with this very outcome in mind. Who does that? And how come police didn't catch these guys or somehow see their weaponry?! It's so unnecessary.

I just don't understand why people had to go this far. We were all upset but there are ways to vent your frustration - preferably in a bar or at home between your four walls, not on the streets of "Vancouver's most liveable city" - taking down Tourism BC one burned out car after one burned out car. Way to go guys, ruin your own city why don't you?

I sincerely hope there were some very ashamed youngsters waking up this morning regretting what they've done and looking to make it right. Will these people ever change? Will they see the error of their ways and make good, or just wait for the next bandwagon to jump on, looking for any excuse to cause riot when things go wrong?

I'd like to hope so but, after seeing what I saw last night, I'm afraid to say I'm not so sure. And I came to Vancouver to increase my PMA (Positive Mental Attitude - we coined the phrase after one week here, that's how touched we were by this city's inherent goodness)...not to deflate it entirely!!

Canucks, you tried your best.

A tiny minority of 18 - 30 year olds in Vancouver, you can do better.

Let's hope so if we ever want to celebrate in this city again.

2 comments:

  1. I have to admit, I was also surprised to see that there were a number of girls involved as well. You expect this type of destructive behavior from young males, but it was quite disheartening to see females participating or reveling in the destruction right long with them. Why would you cheer on or participate in something so destructive and pointless? Where is your empathy for other human beings?

    I don't care much for the "caught in the moment" or "mob mentality" pleas, if you are that quick to throw your morals out the window (as you put it) for the sake of peer pressure then I think the individuals in question need to take a good long look in the mirror. They obviously lack strength of character, and not to mention empathy for other human beings as they stand around and cheer while someone's car is being vandalized, or someone is beaten up.

    Perhaps the problem is the way many of this generation have been raised. Not enough boundaries and limitations, kids being left to their own devices while their parents are too busy or too apathetic to take the time to instill good values in their children. The narcissism of these vapid individuals who pose for facebook pictures in front of burning cars speaks volumes about their character.

    It is indeed truly frightening to see how quickly people can turn into a gang of vicious animals, and the fact that they think of it as "fun" and treat it as if it were some kind of rock concert is even more disheartening. I like that you can be a wild and outgoing individual, without turning into a monster like the vandals and the cheering crowds downtown that night. You may have restored some of my faith in humanity. Thanks for your post, and sharing your story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, very well said reader. Hear hear!!

    ReplyDelete