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June 19, 2011

Vancouver Riot Rationalizations

 Back on island after four choice days in Vancouver with lots of thoughts, like everyone else, about what happened after the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and why?

Depending on how sensitive you are and how much the city of Vancouver has factored into your personal history, I know that some friends felt absolutely overwhelmed and as one said, on an "emotional rollercoaster" in response to the "Lord of the Flies" type behaviour.

From what I've read in the media, a lot of the assessment about the 2011 Vancouver Riot has focused around villains and heroes and those caught in the moment or a "mob mentality" explanation.

What exactly is a "mob mentality" and at this point in Canada's history is that really an accurate description of what happened? I can guarantee you, without a doubt, that if I'm standing in the middle of a city and people start to torch cars and fights are breaking out all around me, I don't inexplicably, get caught up in the same type of frenzy and become what I am not in the first place. If nothing else, this should tell us as a society that there is something very broken with many young males in our society. They ARE angry on a daily basis. We need to do a lot better analysis than "mob mentality". If I'm caughtin the same scenario, I don't suddenly think, oh, I have to get this fight, this torching, this car rolling on camera for my Facebook page or my Twitter feed instead of getting the hell out of the violence.

Explain that mob mentality thing to me because I don't buy it.  I only buy it if in fact, all those people are walking around with so much seething anger so close to the surface on a daily basis in the first place that given a chance to unleash it, such as others participating and normalizing it, they do what they've been wanting to do for a very long time anyway.They completely lose touch with any moral compass they may have had (or not)!

The other thing I don't buy is the lack of strategic planning and readiness on the part of the City of Vancouver and The Vancouver Police Department. Yes, it's a tough job and there was no way that the resources exist to contain thousands upon thousands of people but my question is how could the city of Vancouver be so out to lunch that they thought it would be absolutely fine to have 100,000 people convene in the first place?

Yes, it's true they might have been lulled into a false sense of born-again Christian-like fairy-tale delusion but the citizens of Vancouver pay them to be strategically prepared. And, oh ya, didn't they have some report from the 1994 riots to guide them? My first thought, as I watched the behaviour on television, was God help us when the "big one" hits Vancouver as it recently hit Japan. Looting? Not at all. Didn't happen there.   Imagine being in Japan and watching the mindless violence over a hockey game? Most people in the world, people who have not been overly priviledged their entire lives, riot over human rights, not hockey.

I mean, it's not as if the police (City police and RCMP)  live on la la land here on Salt Spring Island with the bunnies and the deer and the faeries. They police the streets of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland on a daily basis. On a daily basis they interact with people who are emotionally damaged and angry and often desperate  in a city where poverty and wealth are at the extreme and ever widening; a city with a reputation for gang violence and where 31 women who lived in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada, the Downtown Eastside, went missing before anyone even really noticed or cared in any significant or active way because hey they were just "Indians, drug addicts and hookers."

I personally wasn't warmed by the sight of a police car covered in Post-It notes.I was thinking we, the public, were being treated to a really fine PR recovery operation by the police PR people and once again, the media just lapped up the scene without any analysis.

Given that context, and with a winning, not losing, Olympic Gold, where crowds were happy, not angry, the city and the police decided to throw all caution to the wind?  On this occasion, optimism doesn't seem like such a fine attribute.

In a city where violence happens daily, how is it possible for the mayor and the police chief to have been lulled into such denial  about what potentially could happen and what would make sense to be ready for should the worst case scenario come to pass?

No, really!? Tell me. I'd like to hear some rational, believable reason.

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