I walked around downtown this morning taking in all the damage that was done last night, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Thinking about last nights game and subsequent riot left me sick to my stomach, but the scenes I witnessed this morning warmed my heart.
I really thought that people who proclaimed that another ’94 riot was inevitable were wrong. After the Olympics I thought that as a city we were past all that nonsense, and although I was proved sadly wrong, in a way I think that when I said Vancouver was better than that I was right.
News has started to emerge that many of those arrested were from Montreal, Toronto and Seattle, possibly the same group who started trouble during the Olympics. Despite the jerseys seen on the news I still believe that the people doing the worst damage and the people who started this mess were not hockey fans, and for those that were,well, they shouldn’t consider themselves fans any longer.
The people who started this came downtown to riot, because some people just like to cause chaos and have their picture taken. Once this atmosphere was created it was easy to draw in drunk revelers.
I severely hope that everyone responsible is caught and made examples of. The rest of the city has made it clear: These people do not represent us. Vancouverites are ashamed and embarrassed, and if you were involved no one thinks you’re cool. You do not look like a bad ass taunting cops and jumping through fire. No one thinks you “took a stand” against authority. You were not fighting for democracy or basic human rights, you saw a big crowd and a losing hockey team and you decided to bring out the worst in yourselves and your city. You looked like an idiot and everyone thinks you’re a jackass.
Vancouver will overcome this and show the world who we really are. I know this because of what I witnessed this morning.
I walked down Georgia at 9am, past the ruins of a torched Smartcar and the ashy remains of two cop cars, the burning smell still lingering in the air.
I continued down the next street where glass still littered the sidewalk, looking into an unrecognizable Blenz coffee shop where broken blinds still hung from the empty windowpanes, but here is where my day began to turn around.
City workers were handing out gloves and garbage bags, dozens of people brought brooms and shovels and they were cleaning up the streets.
By the time I left downtown, if you didn’t see the boarded up storefronts and burned garbage cans you would never know what had happened there only 12 hours ago. The streets of Granville were as clean as I had ever seen them.
What’s more is the amazing show of support Vancouverites had shown on plywood boards of the Bay. Hundreds of messages were left, telling the world that we were sorry, that this isn’t Vancouver, this isn’t hockey fans. This is not who WE are, but we apologize for those responsible.
These images may not make for the same scandalous television coverage as flaming cars, but they are what we should present to the world. This is the Vancouver I love and this is why the city will be okay.
So rioters, do your worst, because no matter how bad you make us look, real Vancouverites will always bounce back, stand proud, and make us look even better.