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Aftermath of Canucks Riot

by Zig Zag

Canucks Riot 2011 graphic
Canucks Riot 2011 graphic
An eagerly anticipated riot...
An eagerly anticipated riot...
We Are All Canucks!
We Are All Canucks!

Also posted by Zig Zag:

In their haste to demonize the rioters of June 15, authorities have painted them as “anarchists and criminals,” who weren't “real” Canucks fans; a small minority who took advantage of the large crowds to carry out a premeditated campaign of vandalism, arson, and looting. Vancouver police chief Jim Chu has vowed to get the anarchists responsible, whom he linked to Black Bloc militants that carried out attacks during the anti-Olympic protest on Feb. 13 (the 2010 Heart Attack).

Meanwhile, in another world entirely, the political ideologues of the left have passed their learned judgment on the riot, dismissing it as being devoid of political content, a product of alcohol, machismo, and corporate culture. Some have criticized reports published on the Vancouver Media Coop, which have linked the riot to rebellions in the Middle East, against the G20, etc., offended that such 'mindless hooliganism' is equaled to that of 'genuine' political revolt.


Mobilizing the Uptight Citizen

As a result of the corporate state propaganda, a general atmosphere has been created that appears to vindicate the claim that the riots were indeed carried out by a small, evil minority. All upright citizens denounce and condemn the riot, and will do their civic duty by sending tens of thousands of digital photographs and video, and scouring Facebook to find people boasting of their riot stories. Websites have been established for people to submit incriminating photos of rioters (i.e., Police have set up their own sites for the public to submit photos and videos as well, boasting that their twitter account crashed due to the overload of users.

While much of this is hype, designed to mobilize the public against this very bad example, all of the digital media passed on to police will most certainly be studied for evidence and identification purposes. Facial recognition software provided by ICBC (the Insurance Corporation of BC, a government agency) will be used to assist police in identifying people from photos and video footage. The technology measures the specific facial characteristics of anyone holding a driver's license in the province. It also stores images taken for the B.C. ID card, issued to non-drivers over the age of 12. Both these forms of identification are issued by ICBC.

One of the most common assertions by the uptight citizens is that they are “ashamed” of the riot. The day after the mayhem, plywood boarding around Hudsons Bay's smashed out windows became an 'Apology Wall' shrine, with scribbled messages by do-gooders apologizing for the destruction. These expressions of shame are frequently accompanied by angry demands that the rioters pay for what they did (The Province newspaper headline roared “Let's make them pay” on June 17).

Psychologically, the uptight citizens appear to feel 'wronged' by the rioters, their reputation reduced by association with the same city as the violent mob. Hence, the assertion that it was a small minority of anarchists and criminals, who aren't real Canucks fans, finds a receptive ear among these loyalist elements of the population. But this sense of ownership and entitlement only reveals their arrogance and self-righteousness, as if they are the only legitimate citizens with a right to represent Vancouver.


Hockey Crowds and Crowd Control

Just hours before the June 15 riot, during a press conference at a police board meeting, police chief Chu had boldly stated: “There's not going to be a riot. Whether win or lose, we'll get through it” (“Police chief's predictions go up in smoke,” The Vancouver Courier, June 17, 2011).

During the same meeting, when asked if she was concerned about the potential for a riot as had occurred in 1994 (when the Canucks lost a Stanley Cup Game 7 to the New York Rangers), city manager Penny Ballem naively responded “This city has matured so much since then. We've really learned a lot and I think there's a very different sense of how important it is not to do that...”


The police had learned their lessons from the '94 riot and were now much better prepared and experienced in crowd control, we were repeatedly informed in the days and weeks prior to June 15. One of the most common examples offered as proof of this were the massive crowds on the streets for the 2010 Winter Olympics, where police carried out a 'meet-and-greet' strategy. Besides the anti-Olympic protests, the Games did not see any serious crowd control situations develop, despite having crowds as large as 100,000. Yet, as had become clear by Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Canucks fans that filled the streets were of a very different demographic than the Olympic crowds, being predominantly working-class youth (aged 15-30) as opposed to middle-class family groups.

Along with a very different type of crowd, police had far less forces to deploy. The Olympics saw over 17,000 security personnel used, including some 6,000 cops and 4,500 military personnel. Up to this time, Vancouver police have refused to say how many cops they had deployed on June 15, and estimates range from 500-700. When the disturbances began, Vancouver police had to request the assistance of regional police forces, who then began dispatching personnel to downtown Vancouver.

According to Bob Whitelaw, who provided recommendations to the BC attorney-general's office following the '94 riot, the police failure was due to a false sense of security:

““The first six games set the police up in a complacency mode: ‘Everything is going well, everybody’s having a good time, let’s back off.’ Apathy then came into the play: ‘Let’s just let them have fun.’ And then denial that anything was going to happen, and boy, it sure unraveled [Wednesday] night,” Whitelaw said.”

(“Mayor says that after peaceful previous events, he didn’t anticipate trouble would arise,” by Jeff Lee and Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun, June 17, 2011)

Although police have been criticized for their 'restraint' in handling the riot, much of this was due to their lack of numbers, too small to effectively attack and clear the massive crowds confronting them. I myself saw the first riot cops deployed on W. Georgia outside the Canada Post building immediately assault people with batons, concussion grenades, and ARWEN rounds. They did, however, use far less tear gas than in '94, probably the result of extensive contamination of the downtown core that occurred for days after. The ARWEN rubber baton rounds used in '94, which badly injured one youth and sent him into a months-long coma, were also replaced by smaller pellets or discs. Overall, however, police were too thinly spread out and did not effectively stop any acts of vandalism, arson, or looting. The riot ended not through police action but because there was little left to destroy and plunder.


Who Were Those Canucks Fans?

Chief Chu has stated that the rioters were "young men and women disguised as Canucks fans who were actually criminals and anarchists. These were people who came equipped with masks, goggles and gasoline, even fire extinguishers that they would use as weapons." (“Canucks fans turn violent after loss,” by Tim Newcomb, Sports Illustrated,, posted June 16, 2011).


Chu also stated that “They [the anarchists] had a plan, they had weapons, they had an objective... You don't come to an event and burn a car without bringing incendiary devices.”

(“Hoodlums to see inside of cell: Premier,” Matt Kieltyka, Metro Vancouver, June 17, 2011)


I myself saw the cop cars arsoned, and the only “incendiary devices” I observed were pieces of garbage placed on the back seats and set on fire. And while there were some people masked up, the vast majority were not, including those looting, flipping cars, and setting them on fire (an obvious lack of preparation or planning).

Several experts on crowd control and psychology also disputed such claims:

“The Vancouver police and Mayor Robertson blamed the havoc on anarchists who premeditated their violence, but both Schneider [a UBC sociology professor] and Whitelaw said at least some of the revelers were hockey fans... Whitelaw doesn’t believe all of the rioters were hooligans.

“Hooligans generally cover their faces with balaclavas or the like, but some of these people were wide open about letting their faces be seen on camera,” Whitelaw said. “Many of them seemed to be just young people who were out to have some fun and got caught up in it and that’s unfortunate.”

“Schneider also does not believe that anarchists were waiting in the wings to start the havoc.

“It’s not a criminal mindset when people break a window or go into a store. People were celebrating the criminal activity with strangers. The look on their faces was euphoric,” Schneider said. “When you see that level of civil disobedience, everyone is at risk.”

(“Mayor says that after peaceful previous events, he didn’t anticipate trouble would arise,” by Jeff Lee and Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun, June 17, 2011)

What does Schneider mean“everyone is at risk”? He means they are at risk of becoming rioters. It's also interesting he uses the term “civil disobedience.”


It wasn't political”

“Maced in the face, hit with a Batton, tear gassed twice, 6 broken fingers, blood everywhere, punched a fXXXX pig in head with riot gear on knocked him to the ground, through the jersey on a burning cop car flipped some cars, burnt some smart cars, burnt some cop cars, I'm on the news... one word... History:):):))”

(Facebook post, “Make them pay,” The Province, June 17, 2011)


“this is my first riot and I think i'm doing a pretty good job!!! lol I smell like burning people and cars and kicked a lot of riot pig shields, got baton marks all or me to go with my bloody face,whoya!!!!this is the best exsperince of my life!!! riot riot riot”

(Facebook post, “Make them pay,” The Province, June 17, 2011)


Some leftist ideologues have asserted that the riot was the result of alcohol, that the youth were simply middle-class kids acting out, while others have described it as being comprised of predominantly young white males. These allegations are used to show that the riot was without political consciousness or rationale, that it “wasn't political.” This is similar to the uptight citizen's dismissal of the rioters as not being genuine members of the body politic. It also appears to be predominantly voiced by those who weren't present in the zone of conflict, and whose perception of it is warped by corporate media coverage.

The composition and sheer size of the crowds involved in rioting were in fact highly political. The vast majority of youth I observed in the rioting were from the most oppressed socio-economic classes, with large numbers of people of colour participating, including Asian, East Indian, Native, and black. This ethnic mix is in fact very indicative of Greater Vancouver in general, representing also the most economically depressed elements of the population overall.

Middle class kids? It's difficult to assess the actual economic status of these youth, but most weren't wearing $200 Canucks jerseys. Looking at the countless photos and video footage, my estimation is that the rioters were predominantly working class kids.

Most of those in the streets were definitely enjoying the euphoria of liberation they were experiencing, and most were clearly hostile to police (the most common chant being “Fuck the Police”). These experiences have political ramifications, as the authorities well know. While there were those who could be described as anti-social elements (i.e., the brawls and fist fights between fans), there were also those participating who clearly saw it as a form of rebellion.

I myself overheard debates among some rioters about the merits of attacking corporate or private property (a similar account of which I saw in another media report as well). One placard carried outside the CBC fan zone read “Riot 2011,” an obvious reference to the Riot 2010 slogan used during the anti-Olympic campaign. Among the incriminating photos posted on Facebook was of a group wearing Canucks jerseys and posing with looted tuxedos, captioned “Tuxedos: courtesy of riot 2011.” One of the incriminating Facebook pages highlighted by the media stated “Fuck the police” and “Fuck the businesses.”

These youth are the products of this system—from its hyper-sexualized consumerism and violent media culture, to its valorization of on-ice fighting in pro hockey and a blatant association of sports consumerism with alcohol consumption. Yet, while most of these young people may not be out attending the weekly ritual protests organized by the left, it doesn't mean they're all ignorant of what's going on in the world. They can see it all on TV news and Youtube. How many of them watched footage of the Toronto G20 rioting, with its inspiring images of burning cop cars? There were no cars arsoned during the '94 riots, but this time there were 17. What about the revolts in Athens or the Middle East? Or even the 2010 Heart Attack? How could these youth not be affected by the events and disorders of a disturbingly dysfunctional dystopia?

Certainly the extent of looting, far more than in 1994, has political meaning. The desire to accumulate material possessions may very well have been a motivating factor in looting, considering the scale of advertising. But what really stands out is the sheer disregard for established authority and the mass violation of one of Western society's most sacred institutions: property rights. Nor was it simply illegal consumerism gone wild; many looters were throwing merchandise out windows for those on the street to gather (re-distributing or destroying wealth, the anti-thesis of consumerism). These youth did not give a fuck about law and order, and there are indeed profound political implications in this as well, one that greatly disturbs the capitalist ruling class (proof of which can be seen in their hysterical responses to the riot).


In the case of the Canucks fans, their mobilization was intuitively understood as a source of tremendous power that should be exploited in order to attack police and (primarily) corporate property. Irregardless of the participant's varied goals (i.e., looting for economic gain, anti-capitalist or anti-government action, or for the sheer joy of it), they shared a similar strategy and intent. That is why, when police chief Chu sais there were those prepared beforehand, with tools and plans, he's not lying. He's just exaggerating their ability to incite thousands of other youth to participate. Many knew there would be a riot, it was in fact eagerly anticipated. Some were just better prepared.

Although sports riots are now the most common form of rioting in North America, Vancouver's experiences have differed from other cities (dubbed the 'Vancouver effect'). According to Jerry Lewis, the author of Sports Fan Violence in North America and a professor of sociology,

“...they are usually celebratory sports riots. What makes Vancouver stand out, both in 2011 and 1994, is that its street mayhem followed the home team losing the big game... [According to Bob Carrothers, a social psychologist from Ohio Northern University] the Vancouver situation followed 'a very European pattern where a loss almost seems like an attack on your identity, on your city, on your team, on who you are.'"

“He said that in North America, mostly 'when your team loses, you feel bad, you slink home and you pout.'"

(“Vancouver not typical sports riot, sociologist says; Only in Vancouver do fans riot when they lose: the Vancouver effect,” By Daniel Schwartz, CBC News,, Posted: Jun 16, 2011)


Adding a rather cryptic observation, Carrothers also stated that “compared to other sports riots, the level of violence in Vancouver was very strange, "almost like there's an outside force.” Perhaps it's the Pacific Ocean?


Riot Stats


Injuries: Altogether there were some 150 people injured, most from tear gas, pepper spray, cuts, burns, blunt trauma wounds, and assaults. One man remained in critical condition after falling 40 feet from a viaduct overpass. There were four persons reported stabbed. At least 14 cops were injured, one with a brick to the head requiring stitches and one suffering a concussion.

Personnel: An estimated 100,000 people were in the downtown area at the time the rioting began. Of this, several thousand actively participated and stayed in the downtown core. Police deployed some 500-700 officers, with some 100 members of the RCMP and Abbotsford department.

Damages: There were more than 50 businesses damaged, including broken windows, smashed display cases, with over $1 million in damages and merchandise stolen from London Drugs alone (according to Wynn Powell, the president and CEO of London Drugs). There were 17 cars destroyed by arson (including two cop cars), according to ICBC. Numerous trash bins were set on fire. Rioting occurred over a ten block radius of the downtown core.

Targets: Corporate stores attacked included Future Shop, Sears, Chapters, Bank of Montreal, Hudsons Bay, Bell, 7-11, Blenz, Black and Lee (a tuxedo store), Pacific Car Rentals, and a number of fashion stores including Swimwear Etc., Sterling shoes, Yedina clothing, and Mego.

Arrests: During the night of rioting, police arrested some 100 people, and this number is rising over the days as more people are identified from the large amounts of photos and video circulating on the internet and submitted to police. By June 20 117 arrests had been reported in total by Vancouver police (85 for breach of the peace, other charges included assault, break and enter, and public intoxication.

Containment: By 9:30PM, bus service into the downtown core was stopped, and Seabus sailings only ran one way (out of the downtown to the North Shore). Skytrain service was reportedly disrupted due to the large crowds boarding it, beginning at 8:30PM, and people were unable to use it to get downtown. Police claim the rioting had ended after three hours (approximately 10:30PM), but incidents continued until much later. Glass repair companies were only advised to enter the area at 1AM, once it was declared secure.

1994: During the 1994 riot, some two hundred people were injured and over $1 million in damages inflicted, with far less looting than occurred in 2011.


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Reaching for straws there,

Reaching for straws there, Zig Zag?

One tendency I noticed in your writings is that you often attribute the grounds for your assertions to something you overheard or discussed with some nameless person. In this case, it was a discussion between anonymous people about destroying corporate property.

Somehow, I get the sense that a lot of this has to do with making the 2010 Olympic Protest greater than it actually was. 

I'd be impressed if you, Zig Zag, ever admitted that something you organized wasn't the greatest act of indigenous resistance in the entire history of Turtle Island.  Why can't you ever  take a critical look at your own action failures so the next generation of indigenous warriors could learn from your mistakes?

That would be more constructive instead of trying to argue that your 2010 protest (which was a bust) somehow is inspiring acts of resistance because some hockey fans were upset and throwing a tantrum.

Keep It Coming

Once again — ZigZag, self-proclaimed brand-new Kanux konvert, assembles useful perspectives and cuts the crap to shreds!

not much to add

but thanks for this. people from all over the spectrum have been driving me mad recently. thanks for putting it down in writing.

Anarchist Bust

Anarchist Riot Headquarters Discovered: Vancouver Officials Find Material Cache

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - Vancouver city officials have released a satellite photograph showing professional anarchists planning the Stanley Cup riot.

The grainy image depicts a dome structure that the anarchists used as a barracks and command center during their planning of the riot. Outside the dome anarchist leaders are seen discussing the logistics of the attack. A white van that Mayor Gregor Robertson said may have been used to transport weapons is also visible.

Police Chief Jim Chu explained that the criminals were captured through old-fashioned police work rather than social media. "They tried to organize a smaller practice riot outside another local sports stadium then we tracked them back to their hideout less than one kilometer (.6 miles) away." Anarchism expert Dr. Andre Gerolymatos of Simon Fraser University confirmed the militants received training in Greece.

A raid on the headquarters turned up sewing machines, a cache of material used to make counterfeit hockey jerseys, and a Bluetooth device used to control the riot from a distance.


these are fairly astute

these are fairly astute observations about the tactics of law enforcement, and psychology of other city residents who felt 'ashamed' about what other respectable people from other cities would think about their reputation, even though a large fraction of the city attended this event and more than a few dozen participated. Myself, I felt mixed response; viewing a youtube of some teen girls defending their car by punching guys trying to break the windows, only to have others run up and damage the opposite side of the car, made me feel empathy for the women and angry at the hockey fans.

Here's a decent short note about cameras and spectacle at the riot. While we can observe that perhaps hundreds of participants in theft and damage were discrete (weren't photographed, weren't caught), there were many, many participants who 100% knew they were being photographed, and didn't attempt to cover their heads at all. They ran in front of the cameras to pose, and wanted it to be broadcast on the internet.

some minor points

I liked much of this, for which thanks. 

But I do disagree about the extent to which the riot was directly political.  I was there, too, and I didn't get the sense that most people were working class youth; it seemed a pretty representative cross-section of the community: plenty of visible minorites, yes, but also plenty of white kids.  Also a whole ton of expensive jerseys on show (not that that's necessarily a sign of middle class wealth).

And I never heard the chant "Fuck the Police."  In fact, it was notable how little chanting there was, and (from what I saw) how little antagonism towards the police--though that was mainly because the police were basically absent.  The one chant I did hear was "Bruins Suck."

I write more about this here:

But again, I agreed with much of what you had to say here.

How was the Heart Attack a "bust"?

Hey bonzo, assuming you're referring to the Heart Attack demo, maybe you should own your bias about whether it accomplished anything or not. Many of us feel it did.

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