The shame and pride of Vancouver

There was a lof of discussion online and in the media about the recent riot in Vancouver after the Stanley Cup Finale. It was an interesting discussion to follow. However, I think there is an aspect of the event that hasn’t been discussed nearly enough. I will get to it at the end of this post. I assume you have seen the pictures, and read all about the riot.

Sports-related riots are fairly common. So what is so special about Vancouver’s? I think the first reason why people want it to be special is that nobody was expecting it. A year before, Vancouver hosted the Olympic games. It has been a hugely successful event. The atmosphere in the city was electric, and no riots ensued the victory of the Canadian team. One sensible question to ask might be, what if the Canadian team had lost?

Still, riots after victories have been seen. I suspect that there hasn’t been any trouble during the Olympics because the Vancouverites are a little bit more concerned about what they look like when they have the eyes of the entire world on them. When NHL hockey is concerned, it is only a fraction of North America that is paying attention. You probably know some people who get more annoying as they get more socially confortable. I think it’s the same thing here, but on a grander scale.

Basically, we are all human. Every last one of us can be exposed to a situation where they can loose control. We just have different thresholds. Also, riots operate on feedback. If you have two or three guys causing trouble in the crowd and everybody else ignores them, the trouble will die out pretty quickly. On the other hand, if some people start jumping in and causing trouble on their own, soon they will create an environment where it is OK to cause trouble and the more inhibited among us will see this as a chance to release whatever they hold. All you need is the right circumstances, and seeing how intensely the Vancouver crowd have been involved in the playoffs, it is no surprise that the emotional charge coming from the defeat of the Canucks was enough to trigger the feedback loop. Especially the way the Canucks were defeated. It felt a little bit like they gave up on us, and we felt betrayed.

Anyway, my point is that you don’t need anything else for a riot to take place. I don’t think it reflects some held-back anger at real-estate prices or job opportunities by young people, or at least, it is impossible to claim that it is the case to any degree of certainty. I think the obvious factors are also the dominant ones.

There was something else going on in the streets of Vancouver during the aftermath of the riot. All the broken windows have been barricaded with wooden panels. Knowing that these panels are eventually going to be removed, the people of Vancouver started filling these panels with their thoughts on the riot. The Vancouverites were ashamed of themselves. These are the pictures I took on the week-end after the riot. They really speak for themselves.

We love our city. Sticks & stones will not break our spirit.

An artist making a painting of Vancouver with some interesting technique. Notice the American bandana.

A display of Vancouver's shame and pride.

We love Van. No riots, respect this city.

What happened last night was not out of passion but ignorance. The rest of us apologize and love this city.

On behalf of my team and my city, I'm sorry!

Everybody passing by stopped at some point and read the messages. Lots were taking pictures.

This is only at one intersection on Granville. The city is covered with messages and writings of this kind. And people read them.

This is what I think Vancouver can be proud of. The people of Vancouver reflected back on their actions. Walking downtown, witnessing these displays and reading them along with other people was an extremely cathartic experience. Somehow, it was connecting us. I know that people in Vancouver tend to ignore the people they don’t know, but on that day, it felt like everybody wanted to know everybody else better. Seeing the Vancouver people reacting that way to the riots certainly makes me proud of the city. After all, in order to create bonds with people you don’t know, you need to share experiences together, whatever they may be. If something positive came out of the riot, that’s it.

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