I was sickened last night as I watched TV coverage of the riot on the streets of downtown Vancouver after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins. But, I am not sure that the loss caused the mayhem or simply provided the opportunity for criminals intent on creating violence, to do so. What is clear, is that a gathering of thousands of people intended to create community, disintegrated into chaos.
Did the thousands of onlookers who remained in the downtown core taking photos and videos contribute to the escalation of events by making Internet ‘stars’ of the criminals or provide evidence that will allow police to identify and prosecute the offenders? Did the presence of clicking cameras inflame others to stand on top of a burning car waving a Canucks flag? What could have been an expression of triumph in winning a hockey game became a symbol of anarchy. Time will tell if the images submitted by spectators to the VPD are worth it.
Social media reported second by second, the events as they unfolded, but the nature of the comments turned to outrage and mobilized a city to defend itself and right a wrong. Fan pages and links were created for people to send their photos showing crimes being committed. Social media even organized people to go downtown this morning and help in the cleanup.
I wonder about the thousands of people who were affected by the riot and perhaps even traumatized by it. Families at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre not allowed to leave the theatre after watching a performance of Wicked; downtown city dwellers compelled to leave the safety of their condos to try to stop the looting; staff in downtown stores watching helplessly as windows were smashed; emergency workers trying to do their job while their families feared for their safety; transit workers ferrying drunken and scared people away from downtown; and numerous other stories yet to be heard.
Is our society so close to the tipping point that a peaceful gathering can turn into a riot?
I hope that our courts are able to prosecute these criminals fully and will order them to make full restitution for the damages caused by their actions. I also think that it is fitting that they have to go and live in a war-torn country like Libya for a month in order to appreciate the liberties that they have so shamelessly taken for granted.
I will not contribute any further to glorifying these criminals by posting any photos of the riot. Vancouver has much to celebrate and prosecuting these criminals will be one more thing to celebrate.