Some second thoughts on the Vancouver Riots of 2011

The Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots of 2011 have come and passed. A lot has been written and said about them already; the politicians, media folk, and even that guy on the bus will give you their thoughts about what happened. So now I’ll be that guy on a ┬áblog who gives his opinion.

I think it’s incorrect, naive and optimistic to simply pass the riots off as the work of a select few hooligans representing less than 1% of the entire crowd. But in the digital age, where iPhones and YouTube reign supreme, everyone can see what really happened. As social media displays its potential as a tool of justice, we’re seeing a lot of these so-called hooligans exposed. And some of them seem like pretty good people, by all accounts. I’d guess that a good chunk of the remaining 99% of the crowd were there to watch the hockey game and have a party. When the rioting began, these young fans had decisions to make. Would they join in the mayhem, try to stop it, or get out of there and head for home? These kids were on the fence, struggling to make the right decision. Keep in mind that many of these kids have been drinking vodka out of Dasani bottles for the past 4 hours, crowded into a small space on the street with thousands of others. These are angry, young individuals, and their city’s team just lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on home ice.

Like Allan Macinnis said in “A couple of lies about the riots of 2011”, these are the same angry young men you see on Granville Street every weekend. You’d probably recognize them if you saw them. They probably have a UFC shirt of some type on, they have huge muscles, and they love Red Bull and Vodka. Of course I’m stereotyping, and the whole city’s not like that, but Granville Street on a weekend certainly seems more prone to violence (to say the least) than the rest of the city, and that’s probably due in part to its clientele. Are we all prone to some form of violence though? Some of the rioters probably have no idea what came over them, in hindsight. Would we have gotten caught up in the moment and thrown that mannequin through that window? Would we have grabbed that iPhone from Future Shop?

As Cameron Macrae pondered in the Vancouver Sun, Are we all riotous? He wonders what his 19-year-old self would have done in that situation, and if we all stop to think about that question, we can begin to understand what happened after the hockey game. The 19-year-olds of today are different than the 19-year-olds that took part in the ’94 riots. This generation has grown up on the internet. They all have smartphones, Facebook accounts, and a desire to be seen that only the YouTube generation could possess. When the riots began, a lot of these kids who were on the fence, jumped right into the action in order to show off, whether they realized it or not. It felt good to have people cheer them on as they jumped on that police car, and c’mon – it’s just so badass, bro!

In one shocking story I just read (Rioters aim to set Chapters ablaze), a group of rioters were apparently trying to start a fire at Chapters, the huge bookstore on the corner of Robson and Howe, chanting “burn the books.” A group of brave residents stood their ground, and prevented the store and its countless books from being burned to the ground. I think this is quite telling, and demonstrates the intellect of your average suburban rioter, coming down to Vancouver for a good time. Nice try, barbarians.

Inevitable

I think that something was going to happen regardless of whether the Canucks won or lost the game. If you bring gasoline, lighters, masks, and crowbars to watch a hockey game downtown, something tells me you don’t care that much about the game of hockey, or the Vancouver Canucks. You are probably more interested in the fact that there are over 100,000 people (which is roughly the population of Kelowna in the summer!) gathered together in a small area. And that small area just happens to be in the center of the shopping district, home to expensive jewelry, perfumes, and Louis Vuitton bags. It’s the perfect scene for a criminal. Granted, less than 1% of the crowd had these intentions, and the other 99 really did just want to watch the hockey game. But when a good chunk of that 99% is young, angry, and drunk, some bad decisions are likely to be made.

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