By now you’ve heard various apologists for the Vancouver Police Department’s action or inaction on the night of Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. The spin is that a riot was inevitable — whether the Canucks won or lost. I don’t buy it. But let’s say it was. Could the damage to property and people have been minimized? Certainly.
During the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver was in an El Nino winter and the days were unseasonably warm and dry. The days were short — the sun did rise and set on schedule. There were groups of cheering, red maple leafing-wearing drunk teenagers and twentysomethings roaming the city, late into the night. Some were pukers, some were pugilists. If you watched the CTV version of the Games, you didn’t see this.
After crowds swamped downtown Vancouver on Feb. 19, 2010, the VPD was worried about a 1994 Stanley Cup-style riot breaking out during the 2010 Winter Olympics. It appealed for help from the RCMP. “The VPD has assessed this evening and has drawn heavy parallels to the atmosphere that spawned the Stanley Cup riots in 1994.” To prove it, here is the briefing note I exclusively obtained.
The big difference about Game 7 of the Stanley Cup on June 15, 2011? It was not a national security event. Perhaps if it had such resources, proper precautions would have been made and law-abiding Vancouverites would not feel so humiliated or let-down. For instance, the Duke of Connaught’s Own at the Beatty Street Armoury were neither tasked to help nor did they see fit to assist the civil emergency unfolding across the street from their big, heavy green doors. (They were holding a Stanley Cup party.)
Another big difference is personnel. The VPD is led by Chief Jim Chu, who answers to Police Board Chairman/Mayor Gregor Robertson. Chu is under fire for confidently saying there would be no riot. Robertson is also criticized for inviting tens of thousands of people downtown, yet producing no evidence that city hall had a proper security and safety plan for the ad hoc Stanley Cup finals viewing events. They both have blamed anarchists, but shown no proof that the red, white and black A-in-a-circle crowd was responsible. The rioters and looters were predominantly wearing blue official licensed merchandise bearing a certain stylized white-C logo.
News and views on Vancouver 2010 (and beyond) from Bob Mackin.