Vancouver’s Shame

A silence hangs over the city of Vancouver this morning. Yesterday’s buoyant elevator conversation among strangers wearing blue jerseys has ended.

There is a palpable sense of embarrassment as downtown workers return to the scene of the crime, where the aftermath of last night’s riot is evident. Shards of broken glass, looted storefronts and debris abound.

The question on everyone’s lips is “How could this happen?”

Yesterday began with anticipation and excitement. The city was electric. By noon, crowds of people were congregating on downtown streets, pubs and bars overflowed and lineups snaked around the sidewalks.

By game time hundreds of Canucks fans were stumbling drunk, mostly young men who had travelled from the surrounding suburbs by Skytrain and bus.

Throngs of fans huddled together watching a live feed on gigantic screens set up on several downtown streets. The Bruin’s first goal was disappointing, but the street crowd mirrored the 14,000 fans inside the stadium. Still optimistic.

After the second goal the mood began to shift among the 100,000 street fans. It was becoming apparent the Canucks could not score against superstar goalie Tim Thomas. After goal three, emotional fans began to cry and angry young men became agitated. Goal four was even more devastating.

Temporary fencing installed to delineate the seating/standing areas for street fans were now missiles directed at Vancouver Police officers, including the experienced crowd-control unit. Mailboxes, newspaper boxes, stones, potted plants and bottles were used as weapons. Cars were overturned and set on fire, including two police vehicles.

As hundreds of cameras and cell-phones captured the scene, young men boldly jumped on burning cars, flailing their arms in the air as they expressed their rage, while dancing with glee.

It was obvious that a core group of rioters had come prepared with balaclavas and molotov cocktails.

Hundreds of other fans simply lingered, taking in the sights and sounds like tourists as they snapped photos.This group also refused to disperse. Clouds of black smoke mixed with bursts of tear gas enveloped the crowd. Buses were stopped and downtown bridges were closed. Vancouver’s firefighters, eager to help, could not enter downtown. It was not safe.

In startling contradiction to the violence on the street, affluent theater-goers were at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for a performance of “Wicked”. The theatre was next to “ground zero” on West Georgia Street in the midst of the mayhem. Inside the theatre, parents were comforting their children while gamely hiding their own fear of the events exploding outside. No one dared leave the building.

But there are always heroes in a story like this. Chief Constable Jim Chu ought to be proud of his men and women who willingly walked into the storm, all the while exercising restraint, patience and grace under pressure. They resisted the aggressive advances, the taunting and torrents of abuse and the hailstorm of falling debris.

The immature hooligans, nothing more than common criminals, will surely be arrested and ought to face serious jail time. They ruined what should have been a bittersweet party and a celebration of the Canucks spirited journey to the Stanley Cup. The Canucks deserved better than this.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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6 thoughts on “Vancouver’s Shame

  1. I believe the operative word here is “ought”. But we all know there will be know serious jail time, if any, for the participants of last night’s embarrassing mayhem. Much has been said about the success of the Olympics just over a year ago but if Canada had lost to the USA in hockey what would have happened ? Sadly, I believe these boys, I can’t call them men as they have not earned it, appear to have learned little respect for the world they exist in and that is not a police or school responsibility but their parents responsibility. You can’t teach children respect if you don’t don’t have it yourself. I am sure there are many of those boys who come from upper middle class families where Mom and Dad both work so the kids can have daily after school activities so they will not return to an empty home after school. Who is bringing up the kids these days? The TV footage showed the hooligans come from all ethnic backgrounds so one group cannot be isolated. They were only toddlers in 1994 so previous participation is unlikely.

    Irregardless these kids will get a slap on the wrist. The system is bent so far one way can we ever find the middle again? If all those police officers but their safety on the line to do a job then why can’t “The Law” back them up? If we as the citizens of BC were embarrassed maybe the “boys” should be embarrassed? A photo of every individual on the front page of the Vancouver Sun? Or why are we paying to clean up? Assess the parents with a substantial bill. Have the kids cleaning the streets for their summer vacation? The options are endless.

    There will be many theories and words written regarding last night’s events but if these individuals still live at home then assess the parents and make them public.
    Secondly do something about “the law”. Time to quit trying to understand or form a committee but JUST DO IT!

    BTW it is Tim Thomas.

  2. I couldn’t agree more Georgialee. While I was disappointed with the outcome of the game, I was absolutely disgusted with the rioting afterwards. I thought Vancouver’s mayor did an apt job of explaining that this was a small group of individuals (“hooligans”) who came prepared to cause trouble–likely win or lose–and while Vancouver’s reputation is temporarily smeared it was uplifting to see the many citizens of Vancouver coming out to clean-up the city, speak up for the majority of classy citizens that call Vancouver home and demand that those responsible for last night’s destruction be held accountable.

  3. I wonder about the proportion of these young men (and some women) who are suburban. There seems to be another undercurrent of tension about this statistics, as those I know defend the suburbs with insistence that there was equal participation by postal code. I strongly suspect that you are right Georgialee that the aggressive youngsters were from outside Vancouver overwhelmingly but I’m curious if you have any evidence of that directly?

  4. Somehow I bumped into your post while searching for temporary fencing for my company. Normally I would pass by but I’d just like to take this opportunity to say how much I hope this doesn’t turn into the same problem as we had/have with football in the UK. Canada is such a great place but this type of thing could give you a terrible international reputation (as we have here)

  5. This is my first time visiting your site. I found a lot of interesting information in your blog. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one! Keep up the impressive work.

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