Saturday, June 18, 2011

Vancouver riots: thousands stood by and cheered

There was a time not so far in the past when the primary objective of our police forces was the protection of persons and property—or so most of us believed. Judging from the riots at Toronto during the G20 meeting a year ago and this past week in Vancouver, police now seem to prefer tactics by which they let riots burn themselves out, and spend the days following trying to identify and arrest participants.

I admit this is an oversimplification, for the police reportedly arrested more than 100 people and nine officers were injured during the Vancouver riots. So police certainly were on the job. But not enough was done by them to stop property damage in the downtown core, as businesses were left to fend for themselves while police focused on dispersing the crowd, rather than rushing to hotspots as rioters bashed in windows and damaged and looted stores. And how dare they stand by as residents’ cars were overturned and burned?

The next morning, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu laid the blame on a small group of “anarchists and criminals.” And he, the mayor and the premier have all vowed to make sure the perpetrators are caught, prosecuted and publicly shamed. If, in fact, only a small group was responsible for the mayhem, why couldn’t the police handle them more effectively, preventing the property damage and looting? Rioters burned several cars, including two police cars, on public streets, and nearby police did little to stop them.

What happened in Vancouver was a disgrace—both the rioters and the police who failed to contain them should be ashamed of themselves for what, by many accounts, were the worst riots in the city’s history.

For months after similar riots in Vancouver in 1994 following the Canucks’ Stanley Cup loss to the New York Rangers, investigators probed the events looking for answers and preventive measures. Seventeen years later, we have a night of even more serious riots following a Stanley Cup loss. So, let the investigations, soul-searching and blame game begin all over again.

Chu said police gathered thousand of minutes of recordings and were getting more video evidence, photographs and personal accounts from witnesses who captured images on cell-phones and cameras. Already, several dozen arrests have been made and charges laid for breach of the peace, public intoxication and other Criminal Code offences including theft, mischief, assault with a weapon and breaking and entering.

But what about the complicit majority, the thousands of young people behaving like animals, who reveled in the violence and cheered as cars were burned? Or those vapid youngsters who struck poses for one another’s cameras? Even those who did not participate in the worst of it can be seen in photographs and videos showing them smiling and laughing as they watch the destruction. They pose as though oblivious to the fact they are participating, however passively, in immoral and illegal acts.

As Michael Den Tandt of Kingston’s Whig Standard put it:

“The onlookers laugh, as though they’re at a picnic or a ball game. What have we done wrong as a society, that so many young people in one place at one time could be so bent? This was not the work of a few. Hundreds participated while thousands stood by and smirked or cheered.”

What will the consequences be for them? Without question, they should shoulder a share of the blame as enablers for the minority who arrived on the scene equipped with goggles, gasoline and other tools to create damage. Most likely, however, they’ll emerge unscathed, and that’s perhaps the most troubling aspect of these events.

Their friends, of course, know who they are—and some family members too. But I doubt they’ll they be shunned or in any way held to account for their roll, sad though that may be.


© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
All rights reserved.
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.


  1. Even the media were amogst the punks filming the activities. Presumably they had no business being there either.

    The riot was bad but no one was killed. I suspect even the idiots posing and smiling would have had the wisdom to get the hell out of it had a gunfight broke out.

    I believe that this could have been far worse had it been dark when the game ended. There were not enough cops on the ground.

    Civility can turn to barbarism in a hurry. That will never change nor should people imply that it can't happen anywhere.

  2. The police are in Canada are in a bad spot. if they go into a riot and use force to dispurse a crowd, they are seen as being brutal. If they take a stand that they are not to use force due to public pressure they they are labelled as not doing enough. So no matter what the police do, some bleeding hearts will condemn the police no matter what action is taken.

  3. The police are in Canada are in a bad spot. if they go into a riot and use force to dispurse a crowd, they are seen as being brutal. If they take a stand that they are not to use force due to public pressure they they are labelled as not doing enough. So no matter what the police do, some bleeding hearts will condemn the police no matter what action is taken.

  4. Proud Canadian,

    Who ever said police work was easy? It calls for tough decisions, some of which will not be popular. But we do expect police to protect property and not stand by as cars are set afire and stores have their windows smashed and their merchandise looted.

    No excuses!

  5. Feminization of policing has made them into cowards and conversely thugs. (real conservative)

  6. This incident sounds similar to the Toronto G20. People stated that police just stood by as police cars, citizens property was damaged etc. The way i see it the public has a certain responsibility along with the police. The police do the best they can with the available resources. The city of Toronto for example are talking about lay offs for police officers. In the Vancouver incident some very heroic citizens took a stand to stop the idiots for rioting but there were several others who stood by and cheered the idiots. The police in Vancouver were criticized before the riot for having too many officers on the street as it cost money, now the same people are saying why weren't there more police.......damned if you do and damned if you don't.

  7. As I've said before, Proud Canadian, their jobs aren't easy. But not an excuse for not protecting private property from hoodlums.

  8. Perhaps you can prove that the police did not protect property??? I find that difficult to believe. Have you ever been in a situation similar to this riot??? If not then maybe you should not judge ......please reply with evidence of police neglect'

  9. The beat cops did a great job . . . it was the VPD Leadership that caved into the stupidity of the mayor to not have police be police, the mayor who wouldn't fund the extra cops needed.

    This is Mayor Gregor's Riot.

    Gregor's Riot for short.

    He's next to useless . . he'll spend $3 million for a bike lane that goes unused but won't fund the cops needed to patrol a gathering of over 100, 000 people.

    Gregor's Riot.

  10. Good explanation of what happened with the police that night.

  11. A rather simplistic opinion. The Police want to go home to their families in one piece at the end of the day. They will put their life and limb on the line for human life. When it comes to protecting stuff, its not worth risking your neck. Its just stuff and replaceable at the end of the day. People aren't.

    Perhaps if more parents spent less time and resources acquiring stuff and keeping up appearances, made do with less and spent more time with their kids, then perhaps their wouldn't have been so many spoiled hoodlums running around and wrecking things. These were spoilt kids who had no appreciation for anything and never had to work for anything. Most of their parents are probably making excuses for them now and blaming Police for not doing more. These same parents complain bitterly about paying more taxes and demand Police get by on a shoestring budget. Before you know it, this stuff happens and they demand cops put their lives on the line to protect "stuff".

    Its really no suprise, is it?

  12. Should sell the team franchise to a city that appreciates hockey. Quebec City has been wanting a franchise.

  13. It’s scary and frightening how people can react when a team wins or loses a big game. It’s just sports! I hope every individual who caused all of that property damage is held civilly and criminally liable. The courts must send a message that violence can’t be tolerated.

  14. Proud Canadian,

    The damage to property speaks for itself, and the Vanc. police chief, himself, admitted their tactics precluded them from reacting to "hot spots."

    And, yes, I was caught up in a riot at Queen's Park back in the 90's--the police did a marvelous job that day.

    Anyway, that's all I have to say on this subject. Thanks for your comments.

  15. I do have to admit that I am not surprised about the riots in Vancouver. I have lived in several cities and have never experienced such a "detachment" among its people. I lost count how many times my neighbours step in the elevator and don't say hello, people that don't hold the door open for someone else, people who will just stand in the middle of the way without considering others around them.

    It really does feel like many people in Vancouver don't really care about other people.

    I have never seen in other cities people calmly crossing the street on a red light and then give motorist the finger.

    Let’s try to be more civil to each other in Vancouver. Let’s acknowledge our neighbours and fellow citizens and try to do at least one nice thing for someone else every day.

  16. If there are not hundreds, preferably thousands, of guilty verdicts and severe punishments out of this, these types of riots will increase in frequency. Had the police 'crackdowned with a smackdown' at the G20, the Vancouver riot would not have happened. The Black Bloc is a virus and is spreading, because of the lack of voice from the majority. The social media outrage that is outing people in video and photographs is great to see (as long as it does not turn violent itself), but will only be a positive force if appropriately strict punishments are enforced and public. When a few hundred people continue to cry wolf with police brutality, we must show our support for our officers.