I think it’s safe to say that the 2011 Stanley Cup Riot (or the Vancouver CUP-RISING) that followed the Canucks 4-0 loss to the Bruins was more exciting than the game itself.
We’ve seen the footage and photos, we’ve heard first hand accounts and we are now watching rioters arrested for their foolish decisions. This event was covered by thousands of people standing by the epicentre of destruction and their stories have been broadcast all around the world through major news networks.
The real question today is; What can I contribute to the ongoing debate regarding the Vancouver riots that has not been already said?
My main goal that day was to photograph the fans watching the final game. I wanted reactionary shots, win or lose. I arrived to the fan zone on Georgia Street around 4:30 in the afternoon. Everyone had shown up expecting to watch the game and celebrate an epic win.
The Vancouver Police watch over the crowds massing at Georgia and Homer to watch the Canucks game in the fan zones. The crowds were very different from the other playoff games. There was a lot of pushing to get a better vantage point to watch the final game.
But, something was different even from the beginning of the game. I spent 15 minutes making my way through a dense crowd. There were thousands of people mindlessly lining the streets staring at a silent jumbo-tron that looked minuscule from 200 metres away.
I spent a while working my way only one city block. People were pushing and shoving to get closer to have a better vantage point. There was also a steady stream of frustrated people trying to leave the turbulent crowd because it just wasn’t worth it.
I quickly realized that the worst place to watch the game downtown also happened to be downtown. So I hopped on a SkyTrain to watch the remainder of the game at home.
A fan sits on the shoulders of another while watching the first period of the Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals. The mood of the crowd would change quickly after the end of the first period.
I heard the reports that a riot was starting only a few minutes after the game had ended. Minutes later, classmate Rafferty Baker, currently interning with CKNW, phoned me up and told me I should get back downtown to photograph the madness.
I quickly grabbed my cameras, one with a 70-300 lens, the other with an extreme fisheye and within minutes, I was downtown bound.
**Note: Unfortunately, my 18-105mm was in the shop getting the mounting bracket fixed. I could have really used that lens for this event.
A young man is bloody after encountering the riots downtown. The young man was tending his wounds on the Main Street - Science World SkyTrain station platform.
A policeman approaches the intersection of Georgia and Hamilton during a riot after the Canucks lost game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.
A man with a video camera capture the chaos at the corner of Hamilton and Georgia after the Canucks lost the game seven Stanley Cup Finals.
I got off the SkyTrain at Stadium/Chinatown and walked over towards the CBC/Library. I knew that’s where I’d find some action because only minutes before I had seen the car fires on TV.
I had never seen anything like this. The chaos of the frantic people doing what they wanted for no apparent reason. There were fires burning along the street. People had started little fires from all the trash that was lying around from the spectators watching the games in the fan zone.
People were rallying and cheering at the destruction happening around them. Fights broke out and some idiots even threw sucker punches at unsuspecting bystanders trying to extinguish garbage fires.
A woman kneels down to light a cigarette in a fire that was started from trash left on the side of the road. Hamilton and Georgia was the epicentre of the Vancouver 2011 Riots.
The woman leaves the fire with what seems to be a cigarette in hand. Another person takes her spot near the fire after the women leaves. Like moths, people are hypnotized by the fires and the police presence during the riots.
The Vancouver Police Department’s reinforcements soon arrived and formed a wall to push rioters back.
The VPD were equipped with rubber bullets, concussion grenades and tear gas.
A VPD officer stands in the street next to a burning fire during the riot that started after the Canucks lost game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.
A young man lifts his shirt to reveal rubber bullet wounds after being shot by police during the riots.
I was able to get behind the line of police after ducking through an exterior corridor that runs through the Vancouver Public Library. As I emerged on the corner of Homer and Georgia, I noticed I was in the middle of a safe zone surrounded by police fanning out.
Vancouver's streets are littered with debris as police regain control over the people.
A glass bus stop at Georgia and Homer is destroyed by rioters. Angry mobs of people started breaking widows and setting cars on fire after the Vancouver Canucks lost game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Everything in this area was already destroyed. Rioters had been pushed back and were already working on looting department stores like The Bay and London Drugs.
This gave me an opportunity to start photographing everything and anything.
Rioters used newspaper boxes to break the glass of store-front windows to gain entry and loot. Around 50 stores were reportedly vandalized during the riots the followed the Canucks game seven loss.
A young man scales the side of a parkade while the Vancouver Police Department pushes rioters and on-lookers back towards Granville Street. Many people pack the parkade and watch as the police sweep the streets and try to gain control of the chaotic streets.
Remnants of a fire in the middle of Georgia Street during the riots that occurred after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup Final.
Big black plumes of smoke billowed above the buildings so I thought I’d head over to see where it was coming from.
Rioters had flipped and torched several cars in a car-park along Richards Street. Police formed another line and slowly marched towards the aggressive rioters. Two empty glass bottles rained down meters away from the police line while photographing the police making their advance.
A line of police stand along Richards Street in Vancouver as a car burns out of control in a parkade.
Two fire-fighters walk towards a blazing car fire on the second level of a parkade in Downtown Vancouver. The cars were set on fire after angry rioters took to the streets after the Vancouver Canucks lost in Stanley Cup Finals.
Fire fighters quickly came in to battle the fires started by the mob. There was a Hummer that proved to be an extremely difficult fire to manage. Flames and sparks reignited the charred rubble just when you thought the fire was under control.
Fire fighters try to contain a raging fire burning a Hummer into nothing more than a hollowed out shell. The firemen battled the blaze for about 15 minutes. Many on-lookers stood around photographing the fire while others cheered at the sight of the destruction.
The chaos continued down the street in front of The Bay. I ran into former BCIT grad and New 1130 reporter Dan Burritt observing the riot with other media stations next to the White Spot on the corner of Seymour and Georgia.
I followed Burritt around for two reasons: 1) because the VPD had started cracking down on anyone without a media pass and 2) I needed a human shield from any unexpected explosions or rogue rubber bullets.
Smoke rises from a car fire out front of The Bay along Seymour Street in Vancouver.
A man runs along the awning of the Hudson's Bay Company during the Vancouver riots after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup.
Three fire fighters observe the almost extinguished car fire that was in front of The Bay.
The Bay's store-front windows are smashed-in and three mannequins on display are all that remains.
A young man sits on the ground and leans against a wall after enduring the riots in Vancouver. He was extremely intoxicated and in pain. He needed help from his friend to get up and walk away from downtown.
A Canucks fan poses on the top of a burnt out police car as the riots started to fizzle out after the Vancouver lost to Boston in the Stanley Cup Finals.
A man poses for a picture in front of one of the original cars to be set on fire. The man requested to have his picture taken. I was hard to understand what he was saying because he was slurring his words but when someone poses triumphantly in front of a disaster you just have to assume they want their picture taken. You're an idiot.
My final thoughts on the riot are simple. Those participating in the CUP-RISING ruined Vancouver’s international image. While Greece was rioting in protest against austerity plans, Vancouver set their city ablaze on the belief that ‘if it feels good do it.’
This was a pointless act of violence and destruction. There was no meaning or message behind the action. And, what’s even worse is that the VPD labelled the hooligans as “anarchists.”
Anarchy is a movement based on political philosophy. The Stanley Cup riot was a movement based on nothing. Why call the participants of the CUP-RISING anarchists when other words like douche-bags, ass-holes, idiots, Neanderthals or stupid-dummies seems more appropriate.