Jun 172011
Vancouver Cleanup June 18 2011

Photo credit: Raul Pacheco-Vega

I’m not going to re-hash what every major news outlet has already covered about Vancouver’s riot. What I do want to talk about is the positive solidarity felt across Vancouver today amidst the ruins of the riot’s aftermath.

What we felt today was a unification of Vancouverites against the destruction and embarrassing behaviour of a small group of morons, a group we feel do not represent this city’s people or its hockey fans.

Yesterday morning as I drove into downtown Vancouver before 6 a.m., volunteers were already hitting the streets en masse, wearing their Canucks jerseys, and armed with gloves and garbage bags to clean up the mess that a bunch of idiots created.

All day long, piece by piece, thousands of people cleaned up their city in their spare time. The glass was swept up, the garbage collected and smashed windows boarded up with plywood. Everywhere you looked, Vancouverites were uniting to help try and fix what the riot left behind.

On Twitter, tens of thousands of Vancouverites wrote about their disgust with the riot, and began documenting all the good being done today in the riot’s aftermath, using the hashtag: #thisismyVancouver.

Passers-by on the street complimented those sweeping near bus shelters, with “You are amazing! Thank you!” Others simply smiled at each other in embarrassed understanding.

Throughout the day, that plywood covering the windows of many businesses downtown was eventually covered in the writing of those apologizing on behalf of their city and their hockey team. Thousands of messages of hope, disgust, apology, and love can be read outside the Hudson’s Bay Company, and if you take the time to read a few of them, you will quickly read between the lines and see the real spirit of Vancouver.

For the first time since I moved here, I saw this multi-cultural and multi-faceted population unite to try and save the reputation of its beloved city.

All day, Vancouverites worked together to clean up their city, write words of hope on damaged buildings and help the Vancouver Police Department identify hundreds of criminals in the riot with the help of social media. The Vancouver PD Tweeted that it was overwhelmed with flowers, letters and emails of thanks, as citizens expressed their gratitude for their courage shown last night.

Today’s collective actions might not make international headlines, but what I saw happening today was people rising against the negativity surrounding the riot, and showing the world (if it will open its eyes) what the real heart of Vancouver looks like.

It may be too late to save the reputation of Vancouver and its hockey fans, but I thought the world should know that it took a lot of sorrow and destruction to bring out the true spirit of this city. What I saw emerge from the ashes of the riot was a quiet humiliation, one that quickly changed into a determination to gain back some of Vancouver’s good name.

What many outsiders are quick to forget is that this city is heartbroken and in collective mourning after the Canucks lost to Boston. For Vancouver, hockey isn’t just a game; it’s everything. The Stanley Cup Finals were bigger than the Olympics, so it says a lot that the people of this city could to go out there today, put on a brave face despite heartbreak, and patch up the broken spirit of Vancouver with everything they had.

It may surprise some people to hear, but today’s tremendous show of heart by this city made me proud to live in Vancouver.

Jun 162011

Genuine Vancouver Canucks fans barely had time to catch their collective breath after the stinging Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Final before they were kicked in the proverbial groin when masquerading fans took to the streets and burned down their city’s downtown core.

Quite simply, it was senseless madness. It started with a car being flipped over and set ablaze, continued with stores and boutiques getting broken into and looted, and ended with fist fights and tear gas used to subdue the rioting crowds.

To those outside British Columbia, let me assure that this is not what the city of Vancouver is about. No, the real city of Vancouver is the one you saw in February of 2010 when the world watched Canada raise the Olympic standard of responsible celebration and respect among people. What you saw last night were people dressed in Canucks jerseys, only pretending to be fans when in reality they carried backpacks of rocks, hammers, and harboured a will to destroy the things that true Vancouverites hold so dearly.

It’s embarrassing that history repeated itself 17 years later, that a new generation of adolescent males who feel so alienated from society took it upon themselves to smash windows and start up trouble. It’s shameful that people who tried valiantly to protect these places and other people from assault were the ones who were hurt. No, what you people saw wasn’t Vancouver at its finest. It was undoubtedly the city at its worst.

Just so you can grasp just how stupid and senseless all this was, a couple dozen people took it upon themselves to break down the steel gate at the London Drugs on Burrard Street. Once the gate had come crashing down and people had gone inside to loot and pillage, one particular man emerged from the chaos throwing Pringles potato chips in the air. Pringles potato chips! Evidently these were people who had never looted before and put zero thought into what they were actually breaking the law for. It’s almost unbelievable that someone would stoop low enough to break into a store in the name of potato chips.

And then there were idiots who took it upon themselves to clean out a MAC cosmetic store, women who decided that they’d cut their Game 7 losses by stealing some lipstick and mascara. It seems almost irrational at this point to bring up the fact people decided to break into a Chapters bookstore to… well, steal books. Since when did these unintelligent looters and losers have the smarts to actually read?

To those who were part of the chaos in the downtown core last night, congratulations. You’ve turned what was the Vancouver Canucks dream season into a formidable nightmare, and at the same time have completely tarnished the legacy that the 2010 Olympics in our fair city had established. Bring back the old label that we’re “No Fun City”, because evidently you’ve shown why Vancouver can’t have nice things and can’t celebrate in a peaceful manner.

To the members of the Vancouver Police Department and Vancouver Firefighters, thank you for courageously defending our city from the delinquents who have caused damage in the millions of dollars. Given the limited resources and numbers you had from the outset, the job you did was nothing short of commendable.

And there is light at the end of the tunnel. Honest citizens of Vancouver showed up the very next morning to get to work and help cleanup a mess that they didn’t even cause. At the end of the day, those are the true Canucks fans and the real Vancouverites, because from what the world witnessed last night, we are not all Canucks.

Jun 162011

Please read.

As a writer, I hate seeing that phrase to begin as it reminds me of those e-mail chain letters but I can’t help but just beg you to read this just one time. I promise you I am not trying to waste your time. If you are a Canucks fan or a Vancouver resident, I urge you to read this as it matters like few other things do to every one of us. Whether you love Vancouver or you love the Canucks, I dearly love both even if our relationship is strained at times and so I don’t care which camp you’re in as long as you’re in one or both. This is important. I don’t know how many people will read this but if I can get a few more, it would be worth it.

Even if this point has been made already, I feel compelled to try to convince you for myself because of the gravity of this situation. Some of you might not need much convincing but others might. I apologize if you find me long winded and for not having a “too long, didn’t read” version available at this time as it is 6am and I’m writing on no sleep, editing photos from last night’s Vancouver riot after the Canucks lost 4-0 in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s just how I write…I don’t know how to otherwise. Years and years of writing essays in school. Sorry but again, important. Long but I might need it to convince you to take action.

Whether you are a fan or not, I don’t care. I know that while many people in Vancouver are fanatics like myself, others don’t really care about the Canucks but this one time, we all need to agree on something and that is we need to put an end to this garbage before it happens a third time. Am I jumping the gun? Perhaps but if you saw the gravity of what happened last night in downtown Vancouver at ground zero like I did, you would rather be safe than sorry. My throat is still a little sore from coughing due to all the gas and smoke. The blatant idiocy that happened last night has and will cost us dearly whether it be from our wallets or our reputation worldwide, which has been at an all-time high since our awesome Vancouver 2010 Olympics and a historic Vancouver Canucks run through the playoffs. Whether you care or not, this is now what makes the news. Instead of a loss for us to hang our heads about for a couple weeks and take some trash talk from Bruins fans, we are now the laughing stock of the world for trashing our own home. How stupid is this? If you went mad inside your house and tore that thing down, you would be absolutely insane. How on earth is this different? We’re blinder than referees here.

I have to admit I am one of those people that will joke about a riot anytime the Canucks even come close to losing…even in the regular season. But that mostly happens when I’m in bars. It’s 17 years ago and like that ’94 game 7 loss, that riot has lost it’s sting. It is part of our Canucks lore, spoken of in damming tones like that damned goal post that Nathan Lafayette hit that could’ve sent the game against the Rangers into overtime. Yes, those riots were awful too but we can be lighthearted after some time. But jokes are jokes. I’m hearing conflicted reports that people are in the hospital and even that a fan died yesterday. I saw a man get kicked and pepper sprayed last night. This is insanity, people. What are we doing to ourselves? I never expected what happened last night.

I wrote last week that regardless of what the Canucks do in game 7, history had already been made. That was a long read as well but in short, we speak of ’94 affectionately and our greatest heroes were some of the men on that roster. I would have no words for a Stanley Cup win. I’ve dreamed of it often in the 20 years I’ve been a Canucks fan but I’ve had fun every year and I have great memories that I speak of often because I love this team. Well, maybe not of the Messier/Keenan era but you are a LIAR if you tell me you were a Messier fan then. A loss is a loss. We win together, we lose together.

Real fans don’t riot. Real fans take the loss, drink a beer or two and get prepared for discussing the off-season. We are all Canucks. Are you going to stop being a Canuck now? We don’t do this. We are sportsmen like our team. We are one of the best run organizations in the league. President’s Trophy winners. Western Conference Champions. Our boys have given millions to charity. For all the abuse the Sedins have taken, they took it upon themselves to give $1.5 million of their own money to help sick kids. I’ve met some of the players and they are the nicest guys in the world, even when I don’t expect them to be after a tough loss or they’re just going about their business. Burrows, in particular, seems to always have all the time in the world for fans. Does this look like the dirty team the media has portrayed them to be? No. And it sure doesn’t look like a team that deserves the negative press we’re all going to get for this fiasco.

Our city is in ruins today because of a few who decided this would be a decent excuse to cause some trouble. I know this because I was there and overheard a lot, mostly that the troublemakers couldn’t care less about how the game went. They were going to break windows, burn cars and steal from us whether the Canucks won or lost. The world’s headlines say CANUCKS FANS RIOT or something similar this morning. Mayhem! I saw was the headline in this morning’s Province. All because of a few. There were well over 100,000 people in the crowds downtown. There weren’t 100,000 rioters. There were probably a number of spectators and bystanders. The rioters aren’t fans. They wear our colors but they’re not Canucks.

A brave few were able to stand up to the masses, proclaiming that this was our city, what on earth were we doing to our own city? If you head to YouTube, I’m sure you’ll find more than a few courageous soups defending our honor. Thank them, if you will because they did what few could bring themselves to voice, even though I’m sure most of us felt the same way. I’m afraid I wasn’t one of these brave people. Actually, I’m one of the spectators that some of you yelled at for giving these people an audience. I agree with you but let me justify my actions. No, I wasn’t thinking all of this at the time but it’s gotten stronger in my mind as the hours have passed.

My grades may not have been straight A’s but I do hold a major in sociology and can tell a thing or two about mob mentality. Once that crowd was down there, if someone was going to incite a riot, it was going to avalanche because the wave of insanity would reach people faster than they could leave with all that congestion. People are curious creatures so naturally, many are going to want to see what’s going on and as the night goes on, more will join them. I decided that it wasn’t a good bet to hedge my safety or that of my friends in what was a lost cause, at least nothing that one man is going to stop. Many of the brave who urged the crowds not to damage buildings got things thrown at them or worse. I said weeks ago that win or lose, I would go downtown to celebrate with fellow Canucks fans that want to when it was all said and done on the ice.

That and I was carrying all kinds of camera equipment on me. I noticed that a lot of people were doing the same. The great thing about the internet and camera phones…you’re going to see every event from multiple angles and vantage points.

Basically, Vancouver, we have every single rioter who broke a window, turned over a car, tore trees from our ground (yes, that happened), and set our streets on fire is already on our memory cards. Some may have face masks but even then, some have identifiable tattoos and other features. We can get all these morons, Vancouver. You’re right, maybe I should’ve said a thing or two to prevent more damage to our city when I was down there last night…but most of it already happened. We can make sure right now it doesn’t happen again.

Why? Two reasons. Firstly, this is our home. As I mentioned before, we all look like this right now. How many of you did I hear in person or on the internet say how ashamed they are of what has happened? We all know what’s going on. It’s the people that wrecked downtown Vancouver that haven’t thought this all the way through. Remember our reputation as a no fun city? Imagine how it’s going to be now after the city realizes that even though they put on a huge party downtown for us, WE DID THIS. We’re like the kids that were given a sweet ninja weapons as a birthday gift on the condition that we wouldn’t attack anyone with it and then going and bonking someone in the head with nun-chucks. We screwed up with our fun toy, Vancouver and now our parents might take it away. What happens next playoffs? Sorry, fans…no awesome outdoor viewing screens no one else on the planet would do for a hockey team.

Secondly, the Canucks. Can you imagine how it must be to feel like the city rioted because they lost? Or worse…can you imagine how they’re going to feel NEXT playoffs when we might be here again. They’re going to want to lose just so we don’t burn this place to the ground! The riot didn’t happen because the Canucks lost but they might think that way. Despite what Ryan Whitney will tell you, the Canucks are one of the most desirable teams in the NHL to play for. Do you think players want to play here if they know our fans are psychopaths that will tear this place apart?

So I urge you, please…upload any photos you have of rioters that may assist the police in bringing these criminals to justice. If you aren’t convinced, tell me how I can convince you to do the right thing, right now and if I can convince you to tell everyone you know to do the same. They have stolen from us not only by stealing but by costing the city millions…which is money out of our pockets. Even if they are your family or friends, this was a stupid thing they did. If you aren’t going to identify them to police, I understand. At least talk to them and make sure they know how stupid it is to basically be taking money out of our own pockets and setting it alight. I understand the importance of blood but at least give them grief if you see a picture of a family member standing on top of a flaming, upside-down police car. Either way, we need to see these people punished. Don’t think we can’t do it? Even if that facial recognition is mumbo jumbo…with the internet, someone is bound to know who these jerks are. We have to do this.

If we don’t, how can the Canucks carry on? How can we carry on as a city if every time something cool happens, we burn it all up?

If all of us smart people are all together, we outnumber the idiots. I have to believe that, Vancouver. Let’s do this right the first time. If we don’t all do something, these people have nothing to fear. I hope you love our city and our hockey team as much as I do.

Contact the Vancouver Police Department with photo or video evidence or witness accounts by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 604-717-2541. I’m sure you can contact them any other way too…this is important. I’m sure they’ve got time.

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