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Deep Inside the Vancouver Riots

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (1)

On June 15th, 2011 the Vancouver Canucks lost game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals in Vancouver. I was there, watching the game in my cousin’s condo across the street from the arena. Vancouver has a reputation for entertainment event-related riots. There had been riots the last time the Canucks lost in the finals in 1994, and even once when a Guns n’ Roses concert was cancelled. People around town had talked about the possibility of riots for weeks before the big game. When it started, I grabbed my camera and went into the streets to document it.

I also wrote one of the most discussed articles on the Huffington Post about the riot. You can read it here.

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (2)

The riots had the feeling of a giant party–lots of drunk young people in the streets trashing the city for no good reason. There was some looting, but mostly it was senseless destruction.

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (3)

I came to an upended burning car in front of the Canada Post headquarters, as can be seen in the background here. People were posing in front it. Cameras and phones were in the air everywhere taking photos and videos. Facebook pages overflowed with tales from the riots.

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (4)

It wasn’t long before the police showed up. They showed admirable restraint. They were well prepared for this riot, since a similar one had occurred the last time the Canucks lost in the finals. They were also under pressure to ensure the safety of the rioters, because one had died in the previous riot when he was hit in the head with a rubber bullet.

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (5)

The police gradually pushed the rioters down the street away from the car. Some tried to stand their ground.

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (6)

The police shot flash-bangs into the crowd to push it back. The police officially claimed that they did not use any rubber bullets, although I thought that I was grazed by one later in the evening. I’m not sure what they shot this guy with, but they hit him right in the groin!

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (7)

As the police were pushing us down the street, this girl stopped to pose for me, and a few others, to take her picture (she was later filmed lighting a police car on fire–the video is at the bottom of the page).

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (8)

Suddenly, people began fleeing the street and running into an adjacent parking lot. The reason: they had found two unattended parked police cars.

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (9)

They started trashing them immediately, breaking out all of the windows.

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (10)

This woman sat on top of one of the police cars to prevent the crowd from flipping or burning it. She was unsuccessful. The girl pictured above lit it on fire while the woman was still sitting on it (as can be seen in the video at the end of this essay). You can see the glow from the first flames in the back seat of the car.

 

The trashing of the cars continued.

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (12)

A green man showed up. I spoke to him. He was a dick.

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (13)

Finally the police cars were burned. Then I went home.

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (14)

The city was outraged and embarrassed by the riots. Social media was rife with condemnations of the senseless destruction. Volunteer groups quickly sprung up to clean up the mess.

Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots 2011 (15)

I was amazed that night by the things people were doing in front of the cameras, like this guy posing for a picture in front of a burning cop car. Cellphones and cameras were everywhere. More than 1,000,000 photos and 1,200 hours of video were turned over the the Vancouver Police. Websites sprung up to identify looters and rioters. Many arrests were made, including that of the young woman who posed for the picture for me. The video that lead to her arrest is below.

The Video

The girl in orange smashes the cop car with a piece of wood and then lights it on fire starting around 6:57.

I’m also in the video a few times (black t-shirt and hat) around 4:48, 6:03, 6:15, and 6:32, but just for a few seconds each time.

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16 Responses to Deep Inside the Vancouver Riots

  1. sean cooper April 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    Though most of me was flabergasted at yet another stupid “riot”, it also amused me how stupid it was to see my fellow Vancouver citizens vandalize and pose in front of the destruction.
    I mean, seriously, there are a hundred cameras recording you right now dickhead. At least some people were actually smart enough to cover their features.
    But really, the dumbest thing was that they were really destroying our own money.
    You work at a job? Then you pay taxes and you know where that goes dontcha? Yeah, into the cleanup or the two police cars you just created the need to be replaced.
    And NO, Matt, you should not feel bad for getting out there and taking moments of the “riot”, you should feel good that you at least did something proactive as a Vancouverite and the increased traffic on your site is because of your point of view of the event.

    • Matt Gibson May 3, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

      Thanks Sean! No, I don’t feel bad about it. That article is one of the best things I’ve written. After a couple of days of replying to the comments on it, I adopted the philosophy of Andy Warhol, “Don’t read what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.”

  2. The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) April 24, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    These photos are incredible! I had no idea! Thanks so much for sharing this!

    • Matt Gibson April 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

      Glad that you enjoyed them! Thanks Ellen!

  3. Gladys | WanderingTandem.com April 25, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    goodness, i would only see these images in a coup d etat here in my country. i can’t believe this riot was a result of a game. i hope no one got seriously hurt. your photos are amazing though.

    • Matt Gibson April 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

      Thanks for the compliment. I don’t think many people were hurt. There were some fights though.

  4. Andrea April 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    Great post and photos! But their behaviour is pathetic and inexcusable.

    • Matt Gibson April 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

      Thanks. And I agree completely. It was the largest event of mass stupidity I’ve ever seen.

  5. Wandering Educators May 3, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    that IS completely asinine, and indeed mass stupidity. it amazes me what humans are capable of. sigh.

    • Matt Gibson May 3, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

      Yes, our ability to achieve is equalled only by our ability to engage in acts of mass stupidity.

  6. Jeff @ Go Travelzing July 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    Wow. That is crazy stuff. The girls shirt should have said “Free hugs and head bashing with a baseball bat.” Why do these riots happen when people teams win. The should be happy and not destroying stuff.

  7. Matt Gibson July 16, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    They lost the game. Not that it makes it any more acceptable. It was pretty ridiculous.

  8. Chasing the Donkey July 16, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Wait…. the people rioting were from the winning team? What am I missing here?
    Damn great photos – it’s like I was there. Just without the arrest.

  9. Matt Gibson July 16, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Nope, the Canucks lost. That’s part of the reason for the riot. There were a lot of troublemakers planning to riot even before the game (Vancouver has a reputation for rioting about stupid things — like cancelled Guns n’ Roses concerts) so they probably would have rioted even if they’d won.

  10. Anna July 17, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    I agree with the mass stupidity comment! How embarrassing for them! I photographed and participated in Occupy LA a lot but it NEVER got crazy violent like that. Your photos are amazing! I watched the video too and it really captures the sickening attitude people have while posing for photos with the destruction they’ve caused. Thanks for sharing!

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  1. My Favorite Travel Gear of 2014 - December 31, 2014

    […] I’ve done a lot of outdoors photography in various conditions. I’m personally not a big fan of backpacks for photography. They’re cumbersome and you normally have to take them off and set them on the ground to get to your gear, which is a problem if you are snowboarding, in a soaking wet jungle, or in the middle of a riot trying to change lenses while the police line advances toward you (that really happened, true story). […]

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