I get that the Vancouver Game 7 Stanley Cup Riot perpetrators need to be punished. They terrorized innocent people, wantonly destroyed other peoples’ property, and assaulted people including police. They need to be arrested and charged. They must have their day in court. They must be judged. However, I am getting quite concerned about the vengeance expressed by some politicians and officials.
First off we have the premier of BC Christy Clark pushing to have television cameras in the courtrooms. I am not sure what she is trying to accomplish. If she thinks that we as the public need to see that the accused are being punished I think she wrong. I have not heard a loud outcry from the public thinking that they are going to be punished. In the same breath she is advocating cameras in the courtroom, she is saying we need to speed up the justice system. On this point she is correct. The justice system in this province is immovable just look at the slow pace at which people are being charged with riot related charges. Trying to televise the proceedings will only serve to slow down our already taxed system.
I am also concerned about the talk of minimum sentences for convicted riots. Apparently, when crimes take place during a riot they are viewed as more serious as the acts contribute to the riot itself. I believe the convicted rioters need to be punished. In cases where there is a history of this kind of anti-social behavior perhaps jail time would be warranted. I think the vast majority of the accused will be young people, fueled by drugs and or alcohol, who got caught up in the riot. This does not excuse their behavior but if they have otherwise clean records why would want to send them to jail where they will only learn how to become more criminal. They will be saddled with a criminal record and if Clark has her way, their pictures will be saved on the internet in perpetuity.
Instead I believe those who do not have a criminal record should be consigned to community service, a written apology and restitution. I am not talking about a little community service. Perhaps a group of victims could have some input into the number of hours the convicted rioters would need to serve. Restitution should take the convicted a long time to complete.
Really what needs to happen is the convicted rioters need to have the epiphany that they actually did something wrong. They will not come to this realization in jail. Instead they will become angry and bitter. They need to give back to society. They need to invest themselves in society and their communities so that they can then become productive, civic-minded citizens.
The reports are coming in and still no one is really taking responsibility for the riot. Not the people who authorized and set up the big screen TVs in so-called ‘Fan Zones’ nor the people who should have been monitoring the number of people in downtown. The Mayor, Gregor Robertson, has nothing to say but that isn’t new. He ducks responsibility every chance he gets. Chief Jim Chiu is not saying he had anything to do with it. So that really leaves the average citizen wondering how the hell things could go so wrong and no one took notice. I mean it is not like Game 7 Stanley Cup riots are new to Vancouver. It was apparent probably by the end of the 1st period of that game that things were not going to end well for the Canucks and their legions of fans; many of who were already on the ground in downtown Vancouver and inebriated. The only things everyone can agree on so far are that there was too much alcohol and Translink did a really good job of bringing people downtown.
So for free, Dispatches from the Swamp, will provide a report on how not to plan a riot. So here we go:
- Know whom you are inviting into the city – Canucks fans are mostly straight, white men between 15-50 years old. Of those fans, a subset of younger fans, particularly in the 18-30 year range who will show up for a party at a fan zone. Anybody with half a brain cell knows that when you add alcohol and disappointment to this group of people and the mob mentality takes over you will have trouble. It is not that they set out to riot but they were all ramped up by all the media attention the game was getting. There was so my hype I wanted to hurl on a regular basis.
- We know that Vancouver downtown is surrounded by water on most sides. This makes it very difficult for people who want to get out of the city quickly. If 150,000+ people descend on a cramped space it is virtually impossible to move them all out in a reasonable amount of time. If there are ever fan zones set up again, they should be done in a secured area where access can be controlled and people can easily exit. People can be searched for alcohol and denied entry if they are intoxicated.
- We all know that people come from all over the lower mainland to celebrate hockey. There must be a coordinated police force made up of officers from all jurisdictions to ensure public safety. Then set up a fan zone in a big field somewhere like a large concert and emphasize security.
- Maybe even having an altered fan zone is not really appropriate for a do or die situation like Game 7 of the Stanley cup. Vancouver experienced another riot in the same circumstances. Why anyone thought this would not end badly is beyond me.
My last question is: Where are the Canucks in all of this? Wouldn’t you think that as a professional sports organization they could say something to their fans? I think they have a civic responsibility to encourage their fans to behave more appropriately while they are playing. If the Canucks do not do anything about this riot, I think they should be fined to help offset clean up costs for the city.
The provincial government also bears responsibility. The City of Vancouver asked for some financial help with the Stanley Cup playoffs policing efforts and the province did not assist. This clearly was a regional event rather than just a City of Vancouver event and as such the province should have done something.
Unless the various levels of government, the VPD and the Canucks get their shit together we may well have a ‘threepeat’ next year. Everyone must look at their roles in this completely predictable and avoidable event and ensure it does not happen again.
 For example the Pandora fires that killed 3 homeless men just before Christmas is a shining example of Gregor at his finest.
 I know I am generalizing and not every fan is a white straight man.