Solicitor General Shirley Bond’s pre-game plea to celebrate responsibly went out the window along with the Vancouver Canucks’ hopes for the Stanley Cup Wednesday night, leaving the city and the province to clean up and reassess their crowd control strategy.
At a tense news conference with fire officials Thursday, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu said there will be multiple reviews of the response to the Stanley Cup riot of 2011, including the big question of whether the city should abandon the practice of encouraging thousands of people to gather downtown.
RCMP and Abbotsford Police reinforcements, sent in after post-game crowds turned violent, took three hours to stop extensive damage and looting in downtown stores. A strategy of “meet and greet” by police crowd control units with people watching on giant TV screens had little deterrent effect.
As the mayhem was covered on live television, Bond urged thousands of picture-snapping spectators to go home.
Lessons learned from the 1994 Stanley Cup riot helped get the situation under control in half the time as the events of 17 years ago, Chu said, and police were dealing with many more rioters and hangers-on.
Chu identified the key perpetrators as the same group of “anarchists and criminals” who disrupted the 2010 Olympics. They are opportunists, looking for big crowds to hide their activities, he said.
Police did not anticipate the full impact of wireless social media on crowds, invited to gather at downtown “live sites” to watch in the tradition of the 2010 Olympics. Huge crowds of drunken spectators with camera phones delayed police and fire crews from stopping the looting and burning.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson also identified “a small group of troublemakers” as the primary cause.
Premier Christy Clark told CKNW radio Thursday that the review has to focus on the social media factor, and use new technology to identify people caught in video and still images.
“We have to make sure that the hard-core group of troublemakers is punished,” Clark said.