Vancouver residents awoke Thursday to the aftermath of the city’s worst riot in decades, facing a massive cleanup and questions about how the mob fury came to be unleashed after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins.
City crews and glass repair companies were still working to repair the smashed windows of about a dozen businesses targeted by rioters and looters in the downtown core as the sun rose over the city early Thursday morning.
Worst hit were Hudson’s Bay, London Drugs, Bank of Montreal and a car rental agency on West Georgia Street, and the Sears, Future Shop and Chapters stores on Robson Street.
Crews were working hard to sweep up, replace the glass and board the windows as office workers arriving for work looked on in disbelief and confusion, and snapped photos of the mess.
Many volunteers also responded to a Facebook campaign and were on the streets with brooms, shovels and garbage bags helping city workers clean up the broken glass and trash that remained strewn across city streets.
Barrett Nash, a resident of nearby False Creek, was one of those who came downtown to help with the cleanup.
“I woke up today to read all the news reports about just how much Vancouver embarrassed ourselves yesterday. And I thought just before going to work I could just help clean up a bit. So I went downstairs, grabbed some garbage bags and gloves, and I am trying to help clean up,” he said.
More people are expected to join the citizen clean up crew throughout the morning.
Inside many of the stores, employees were also cleaning up smashed display cases and other evidence of widespread looting. Each of the large glass store windows would cost $1,000 to $2,000 to replace, repair crews estimated.
Ed Roche, the sales manager at 24 Hour Glass, said his team was prepared for some rioting, but they didn’t expect it to be like this.
“We already had vehicles in the downtown core area just in case something like this came up. One of them was at the Bay, at the loading bay, but the police wouldn’t allow our guy to get back to his vehicle because it was just too dangerous. And one of our other vehicles did get flipped over on its side,” he said.
Roche said they will be able to get glass up quickly on some buildings, but many will stay boarded up for a couple days while new glass is ordered.
No estimate yet of cost of damage
There is still no damage estimate, said Chris Gauthier, the executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.
But the CEO of London Drugs, Wynne Powell, estimated the repairs at his one store alone would be around $1 million.
“At this time it is difficult to put an exact dollar amount on the damage and theft the store has suffered but it will be significant. The first floor of the store was hit hard which included food, housewares and cosmetics products. There was also significant theft on the second floor of the store which includes a vast amount of cameras, computer and electronic technology products,” said a statement released by Powell.
“We felt we were prepared but the sheer number and force of the rioters far exceeded the Georgia/Granville corridor’s barrier capabilities,” said Powell. “We are thankful the Vancouver Police Department were able to protect our staff — that is our number one priority.”
CBC reporter Curt Petrovich on the streets of Vancouver Thursday morning:
“The sun is just starting to rise, and all through the downtown core where the fan zones were is scorched pavement where cars and garbage cans and newspaper boxes were set on fire last night. There are orange-vested crews shovelling up glass like snow. There isn’t enough glass to replace what’s been broken ….
“The Bay was a big target by looters. There’s not a window left intact. I can look inside and see that the floors are covered with dirty brown water.
“Everywhere there’s a stench of booze, smoke and more distasteful odours.”
“It is so unfortunate that what was a celebratory event on previous evenings over the course of the last two weeks degenerated into acts of violence and criminality,” said Gauthier.
“We encourage our members to save video footage and photographs of any looting or other criminal activities,” said Gauthier.
Several vehicles were also burned by rioters overnight, but those had been removed by morning, leaving large black marks on the pavement. Evidence of smaller trash can fires also remained on sidewalks.
Police have yet to release any information on the number of arrests made or any charges that will be laid, but said they will issue an update later Thursday morning.
TransLink was reporting that all services including buses were running normally Thursday morning, after service into the city was suspended Wednesday night.
Hospital officials reported four people remained in hospital with serious injuries, including two stabbing victims, a person who was injured in a fall and a person who had a reduced level of consciousness.
About 140 people were treated at St. Paul’s and Vancouver General hospitals for less serious injuries, including the effects of tear gas or pepper spray, cuts, face and head injuries and substance misuse before being released.
Rioters arrived with a plan
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson blamed the rioting on a small number of troublemakers, and said “they will be held accountable.”
“It’s absolutely disgraceful and shameful and by no means represents the City of Vancouver,” he said. “We’ve had a great run in the playoffs here, great celebrations, and what’s happened tonight is despicable.”
Vancouver Canucks fans walk away from a burning pickup truck in downtown Vancouver during riots following Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on June 15. (Anthony Bolante/Reuters)
Robertson denied suggestions the city’s police force was caught unprepared by rioters.
“They were not flat-footed at all,” said Robertson, who added the rioters came with a plan for destruction in mind.
“They had a game plan that they carried out and it was very difficult to contain. This group was mobile. They split up. They had tools to start fires,” said the mayor.
“Vancouver was the talk of the world after our previous celebrations … We are going to have to work to turn this around,” he said.
Rick Antonson, the CEO of Tourism Vancouver, said the image of the rioters has replaced the peaceful, friendly image Vancouver created during the public celebrations of the Olympic Games.
“All of the good of the Olympics has for a moment been reset down. It’s like a virtual snakes and ladders game. We were at the top — at the goal — and all of a sudden that long snake down, and we have to begin the climb again,” he said.
Antonson said in the long term, Wednesday night’s hockey riot won’t be bad for tourism in Vancouver but it will take time to move forward from the tarnished reputation.
“For the moment, they are the representatives that the world sees on behalf of Vancouver and that’s not irreparably damaging, but it’s really difficult to overcome,” he said.
Rioters’ photos posted online
Video and photos of burning cars, broken windows and looted stores were posted on websites around the world as the mayhem slowly subsided, including virtual mug shots of individual rioters.
The destruction, which led to police reading the riot act, was worse than the June 1994 Stanley Cup riot in downtown Vancouver after the Canucks lost in the seventh game of the final in New York against the Rangers.
“Definitely more looting … went on,” said CBC reporter Alan Waterman, who covered both riots and was taken to hospital this year.
“We never saw the sort of looting in ’94 that we did this time. We saw scores of people just racing into stores and coming out with armloads, armloads of electronics — iPods and gold watches, we saw go by, and perfume. Anything in the major stores display windows was gone.”
As the game ended and violence outside began, police fired tear gas, pepper spray and flash bombs, trying to disperse angry rioters who set cars on fire, looted stores and taunted police officers.
Media outlets such as the New York Times and CNN played reports about the chaos prominently on their websites.
“Trouble in Vancouver’s Streets After Defeat” topped the lead story in the online sports section of the Times, while the CNN site gave prominent play to fiery video images from downtown.
The Washington Post headline, “Riots erupt in Vancouver after Canucks lose to Bruins,” was accompanied by a photo of a fan waving a Canadian flag with a burning pickup truck in the background.
The riot also drew notice in Australia, where the front page of the sports section of the Brisbane Times website displayed photos of the riot under the headline: “Hockey fans hopping mad.”
The Sydney Morning Herald also displayed riot photos and the headline: “Violence in Vancouver after Canucks lose Stanley Cup final.”
Police declared the downtown fan zone area near the CBC building and the central post office a riot zone. Anyone not leaving the West Georgia Street area immediately could be arrested, they warned.
They used batons and also turned police dogs on the rioters, slowly pushing the crowd back along Georgia Street from Hamilton Street to Cambie Street.
Two police cars were set on fire in a parking lot on Cambie Street near one of the areas where police were being confronted by a few dozen people among the hundreds present who were throwing debris at officers.
Questions about police
Still, many questioned how long the police took to contain the violence and whether their planning, especially in light of the 1994 experience, was sufficient.
“There was enough police, but they were very late,” said restaurant-owner Francesco Caligiuri, who operates Da Gino Ristorante on West Georgia Street.
“We were trying to call them, but they said they couldn’t get down. I think the planning and the protocols, they didn’t think through.”
He said that as he came out of the Rogers arena after the game, the crowd started getting more chaotic and dangerous.
“And as we went inside the restaurant, that’s when we feared for our lives as rocks and anything heavy that they could get their hands on were thrown at us.”
The CBC’s Belle Puri reported that families with children watching the game on giant outdoor screens near the Rogers arena seemed to sense the approaching danger as the game neared the end. Some left early.
“You know, I stayed until the score was three-nothing, and I was … right in the middle of the crowd. And it was interesting: at about that point, I heard a lot of people, especially people with families, saying, ‘You know, it’s time to go; we don’t want to be here ….’ They were worried.”
St. Paul’s Hospital was in what’s called a Code Orange, “a disaster code which brings to bear all the resources of the hospital,” said Dr. Eric Grafstein.
The emergency ward saw 60 patients in two hours Thursday night, compared with an average 16 in that time.
“There were a lot of people who were cut,” Grafstein said. “There were some fractures, jaws, facial injuries. I believe we treated two or three people with stab wounds — none of them were life-threatening.”