Looting breaks out as riots intensify in Vancouver
Bethany Lindsay, ctvbc.ca
Published Wednesday, June 15, 2011 9:15PM PDT
Rioters left downtown Vancouver reeling from countless fires, widespread looting and numerous stabbings in the wake of a crushing loss for the Canucks Wednesday night.
People the mayor has described as "hooligans" smashed windows, lit cars on fire and started fist fights throughout the downtown core after Vancouver lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final 4-0 against the Boston Bruins.
There are reports that a young man fell or was pushed from the Georgia Viaduct shortly after the end of the hockey game, and was taken to hospital with serious injuries. Two people were taking away by ambulance and another was arrested after an apparent stabbing in the 700-block of Hornby Street.
As the riot moved in a wave throughout the city, looters smashed windows at the Sears outlet on Robson Street and wreaked havoc inside the store, before turning their attention to the Chapters across the street.
Riot police wearing gas masks and carrying shields made a show of force nearby, moving slowly toward the crowd in an effort to disperse it.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson condemned the "hooligans" responsible for the riot in interviews with reporters.
"It's a bunch of angry young man who are fighting, smashing things, lighting cars on fire," the mayor said. "It's absolutely shameful and disgraceful and in no way represents the city of Vancouver."
B.C. Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond told CTV News that she was shocked by the damage throughout the city.
"I cannot begin to tell you have utterly disappointed I am," she said. "It is shocking. It is disappointing."
A group of young people apparently unhappy about the Canucks' loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final broke windows at The Bay on Georgia Street and rioters were looting merchandise from the store from the Seymour Street side.
Rioters danced around a burning van outside the store, tossing bottles into the blaze to create small explosions. A BMW was set on fire nearby, and an apparently drunken man jumped straight into the flames, falling back seemingly unscathed.
Several other people could be watching the fire from the second floor of the store, taking pictures and waving their hands in the thick black smoke.
Huge crowds gathered around the London Drugs location on Granville Street as people trashed the inside of the store and made off with stolen goods.
Police officers on horseback moved into the riot area outside the store to clear out crowds shortly after the looting began.
Witnesses in the middle of the riots reported serious injuries in the crowds, but St. Paul's Hospital was on a Code Orange lockdown and staff members were barred from leaving the building.
St. Paul's set up a station to deal with more than 100 people suffering from injuries caused by pepper spray and tear gas, and an unspecified number of people were brought in with stab wounds and fractures.
Eyewitnesses told CTV News early in the riot that an angry mob had flipped over a police car near the intersection of Nelson and Granville streets, and that rioters were smashing windows at a pizza place nearby. Several other police cars were set on fire later in the night in other areas, and rioters were tossing firecrackers at the blazes.
Vancouver Police Const. Lindsey Houghton told CTV News that the crowd downtown Wednesday likely exceeded 100,000, but he said that only a small minority were responsible for the widespread damage.
"The majority of people are still in good spirits," he said.
"It's unfortunate that we've seen that group of people in downtown Vancouver trying to cause trouble."
The VPD's Const. Jana McGuinness denied that the situation was out of hand.
"People have gone to great lengths to damage our fine city," she told CTV News. "We didn't invite 100,000 people downtown without a plan."
Capt. Gabe Roder of Vancouver Fire and Rescue told CTV News that he did not have an estimate of how many fires had been set throughout the city. He said that firefighters have been held back from dealing with several fires because of safety issues caused by the rioters.
The Vancouver Police Department called in backup from nearby RCMP detachments to help control the riots, and bridges were shut down to keep people out of the downtown area.
TransLink announced shortly after 9:30 p.m. that it was shutting down all bus service in downtown Vancouver, although SkyTrain and SeaBus were still running to take people out of the riot area. SkyTrain service was scheduled to run until 2:15 a.m. West Vancouver buses were beginning their runs out of the city at the intersection of Georgia and Cardero streets.
Smoke from burning dumpsters and cars choked the city skies and rioters smashed windows at The Bay on Granville Street and at the Bank of Montreal branch at the intersection of Georgia and Homer streets.
People attending the musical "Wicked" at Queen Elizabeth Theatre were told not to leave the building because of the chaos outside.
Riot starts small
As soon as the final whistle blew in the disappointing game, young men in the Georgia Street fan zone began setting off firecrackers, shouting "F*** Boston" and setting Bruins gear on fire.
Others could be seen throwing bottles at the massive TV screens in the Georgia Street fan zone.
Fans flipped a car out front of the post office on Georgia Street and turned over another truck nearby after the Canucks were trounced 4-0 in the final game. Another car was set on fire.
Other angry fans held signs reading "Riot 2011" and burned homemade Stanley Cups as the pandemonium spread through the downtown core. Some rioters flipped portable toilets, and there were early reports of head injuries as fist fights broke out throughout the downtown area.
A ctvbc.ca reader sent in a photo of a man in a Bruins jersey lying on Georgia Street, blood streaming from his face. A young woman in her 20s was seen with blood running from her back in front of The Bay building.
Riot police converged on the downtown area, setting off tear gas in some cases, but upset fans were throwing beer bottles and shoes at their plastic shields.
Before the game was even over, officers had restrained a teenager shouting "Let's break windows" outside of the London Drugs at the intersection of Granville and Georgia streets.
Over at the MAC Cosmetics store on Robson Street, staff members were boarding up windows just to be safe.
The scene downtown bears unsettling similarities to the 1994 riots, when drunken Vancouver fans took to the streets after a Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers. Cars were overturned, police made 150 arrests in a matter of hours and another 200 people were injured.
Are you an eyewitness to the violence in downtown Vancouver? If you have video or photos of the damage, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.