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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.