B.C. premier vows to hunt down rioters
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Thursday, June 16, 2011 5:24PM PDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 2:05AM PDT
B.C. Premier Christy Clark is pledging to throw the book at rioters, a day after unrest rocked Vancouver, sending at least 150 people to hospital and causing significant property damage throughout the city's downtown.
"We are going to hold those guys and women accountable," Clark said Thursday afternoon. "They are going to get the stiffest sentences we can possible come up with. The days of a slap on the wrist for this kind of behaviour are gone."
"If any of them are watching today," she told CTV's Power Play, "my message to those people is we're going to find them… Consequences are necessary if we want to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Earlier in the day, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu said authorities are determined to track down the "criminals, anarchists and thugs" who destroyed property and rioted in downtown streets after the Stanley Cup final.
At a news conference on Thursday, Chu said police made "close to 100 arrests" on Wednesday night and they will make more as they continue to investigate the riots.
Chu said nine officers were injured during the riots, including one officer who needed 14 stitches after being hit by a brick. Another officer suffered a concussion. There were also officers who suffered "human bites," Chu said.
Police saw offenders carrying gasoline and fire extinguishers with them, suggesting that some of the people involved had come prepared to cause trouble.
Have your say: What do you think of the riots?
Local hospital officials have confirmed that nearly 150 people needed treatment after the riots, though it is not clear if injured police officers were included in those figures.
Two of the injured parties admitted to hospital had been stabbed, while another male patient suffered head injuries and is now in critical condition.
It took hours for police to bring the ferocious riots under control, as cars were overturned, store windows were smashed and smoke billowed from overturned vehicles that had been lit ablaze. Looters were seen stealing makeup, clothing and even a mannequin from major retailers that were targeted during the riots.
As the riots raged on Wednesday night, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Roberston put the blame on "a small number of hooligans" who were looking for trouble.
"It's absolutely disgraceful and shameful and by no means represents the city of Vancouver," Robertson said.
On Twitter, Vancouver police said they would be releasing information on how members of the public can send in their pictures and videos of the riots to investigators.
Police struggled to control rioting
While the police had put many officers on the streets throughout the playoffs, they could not keep a lid on the rioting that ignited after the Canucks lost.
"For some reason, they just couldn't get to the hot spots in time," CTV's Todd Battis reported from Vancouver Thursday morning. "That's why you saw so much looting going on."
Battis said the riots reportedly began with one fan lighting a stuffed animal on fire that looked like a bear -- apparently to represent the Boston Bruins who battled fiercely throughout the seven-game series against Vancouver.
"That led to a car being set on fire, a car that we're being told by at least one witness was brought down to deliberately be burned. And that really got things rolling," Battis said.
With the chance to win a Stanley Cup gone, many Canucks fans could not understand why some people had decided to make the situation worse by taking part in riots.
"Tonight, what I've seen is a complete disgrace," said Beth Hope, a 28-year-old who moved to Vancouver two years ago from England.
Hope said she had tucked her Canucks jersey into her bag, after becoming "ashamed to be a fan" in the devolving atmosphere on the streets.
"It's insane, it's absolutely insane. What's the point? Our team lost -- why destroy our own city? I'm afraid."
Lifelong Canucks fan Chad McMillan was similarly disgusted with the rioting.
"This isn't what the Canucks are about," the 31-year-old said. "This isn't what their fans are about, this isn't what this city is about."
A black eye for Vancouver?
No matter what the mayor and other Vancouver residents said, the rioting drew attention all over the world.
Footage of fires burning on Vancouver streets were shown on CNN. On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, Australia's Sydney Morning Herald website showed photos from the riots.
Wai Young, the Conservative MP for Vancouver South, also made reference to the riots in Parliament during question period Thursday.
On Twitter, Young said "the violence is an embarrassment and absolute disgrace to our city."
Hedy Fry, the long-time Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre, said she believed the police handled the situation as best they could.
But she was a loss to describe the motivation of individuals that took pictures of themselves near flaming cars and stood by while looting raged.
"This is madness," Fry told CTV News Channel from Ottawa.
Robert Gordon, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University, said there are at least two types of people who can be found in the midst of riot-type events: the main agitators and individuals who like to watch what they are doing.
For this second group, Gordon told CTV News Channel that their motivations appear mainly rooted "in the entertainment value of what's unfolding in the streets of Vancouver."
Bob Whitelaw, who wrote an initial report about the 1994 Stanley Cup riot, said he watched the violence that unfolded in Vancouver on Wednesday night with "disbelief."
Whitelaw said the rioters likely caused at least $1 million in property damage, but "$1 billion worth of bad publicity for the City of Vancouver."
(Editor's note: This story was edited on 21/06/11 to correct misleading information contained in an earlier version. Whitelaw was hired as a freelance writer to help draft an earlier version of the report into the 1994 riot, but that report was rejected by the B.C. Police Commission as below standard and an entirely new team of investigators was brought in to draft the final report, according to former commission chair David Edgar.)
The Boston Bruins received a police escort when returning to the airport and they arrived in their hometown mid-morning on Thursday. They were greeted by several dozen fans who were eager to celebrate their win over Vancouver.
With files from The Canadian Press