Sunday, June 19, 2011

Personal Thoughts about the Second Stanley Cup Riot

My hometown of Williams Lake, B.C. has the dubious distinction, most years, of being the "crime capital" of B.C. (At 266 offences for every 1,000 residents, Williams Lake is ahead of Whistler, which is in second spot, Quesnel, Merritt and Smithers, which round out the top five.) I hasten to add that this is no reflection on the character of our residents; merely on the simple fact that as the "hub of the Cariboo" it is the place that everyone in the outlying communities comes to on the weekends to shop, have a drink, watch a hockey game, and do other things.

I mention this only because I recognized the same basic phenomenon--on a larger scale and more irregular basis--in both the 1994 and 2011 Vancouver riots. The City of Vancouver proper is only about half the size of Edmonton. But when it decides to throw a party--for Sea Fest, the Stanley Cup Finals, or the Olympics--it has to police a crowd that is drawn from the entire Lower Mainland, and to a lesser extent from the entire province.

It was obvious that a force of 500 active duty officers was inadequate to control of 100,000. And I think the resource shortfall was reasonably knowable in advance--both Vancouver city council and the provincial government should have known that.

Basically, there are 3 options for future events like this one:

1) The City of Vancouver taxpayer pay can in advance to beef up the police force (RCMP will add officers, but then present VPD the bill)

2) Other GVRD munipalities should chip in in advance (after all, a
lot of the revellers are probably white trash from Burnaby, North Delta, and Surrey)

3) The province should at least provide matching funds for security,
since the party was for the whole province.

Another personal observation, based upon my experience of the 1994 riot. I had watched the game at my firend's apartment in the West End, and on my way home experienced the first Stanley Cup riot first hand. The VPD Riot squad marched past me and I could see the look of apprehension etched on their faces, as they did not know what to expect. Once the violence mounted to the point that it started to get scary, I started toward the Granville st. SKytrain station to head back to my brother's house in North Delta. On the subway, I found myself sitting with a group of recently pepper-sprayed rioters. Their heads were shaven, they were dressed in combat fatigues, and they were discussing the evening's battles.

Not one of them even said a word about the hockey game.