Vancouver police poised to lay riot charges
Vancouver police are preparing to lay their first charges in connection with the riot that damaged an estimated 50 downtown buildings after the Stanley Cup final.
Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu said investigators have requested approval of charges against a male suspect who has turned himself into police.
"This male is going to be charged with arson to property, mischief, unlawful assembly and participation in the riot," Chu told reporters during a press conference on Friday.
Chu said police intend to "vigorously pursue those lawbreakers" who smashed windows, lit fires and looted stores during the mayhem that erupted on Wednesday night.
The shocking street scenes that followed the Canucks loss have prompted many Vancouver residents to show up in the downtown core and help with the cleanup.
Mayor Gregor Robertson said Friday that these unsolicited gestures of support were indicative of the commitment Vancouver residents have to their city.
"We love our city and we want to protect what is precious here and we have had great celebrations in recent years that have become part of our city," Robertson told CTV News Channel on Friday. "And we don't want to give that up because of a bunch of thugs."
Both Robertson and B.C. Premier Christy Clark have said the mayhem that followed the Canucks' loss won't stop the city from holding future large-scale events.
Meanwhile at a news conference Friday afternoon, Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said he hasn't decided whether the franchise will hold any fan appreciation events in the near future.
"On the heels of what just happened I'm unsure about what we should do. We're going to take a couple of days here to think about it and we'll do what we think is appropriate," Gillis told reporters. "I'm concerned about anything that reflects poorly on us and the city we represent."
He said the rioters were "not reflective" of the team's fan base and he hopes "they're punished to the full extent of the law."
Extent of looting not yet known
Charles Gauthier, the head of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, said it is not yet known how much merchandise was stolen out of shops that looters raided during the riots.
While the property damage and thefts are frustrating to deal with, Gauthier said most business owners accept the fact that a mob mentality was behind the mayhem.
"I think the vast majority of them understand that there was a criminal element to this that took advantage of large crowds and incited others that were on the sidelines to get involved in the violence," Gauthier told CTV News Channel from Vancouver.
More than a dozen cars were burned out during the same riots, which also involved many violent confrontations on the streets.
Hundreds of people took photos as the riots raged and now many of those images have been published online. Many shocked Vancouver residents hope that these photos will help police identify the people responsible for the violence.
Vancouver Province reporter Niamh Scallan was covering the riots on Wednesday night and said she was "shocked" by the destruction and violence.
"It was total devastation. There were garbage cans, dumpsters lit on fire, 15 cars were lit on fire including two police cars that I personally saw," Scallan said Friday.
Jeffrey Fuhr, a psychologist based in Victoria, B.C., said that a number of factors may have contributed to the rioting.
Some in the crowd complained afterward that they didn't have an "ease of exit," which could have made them anxious, confused and more likely to follow along with what others around them were doing, Fuhr said.
"Much like at the scene of accident, there's kind of macabre interest in the things that you don't really want to see and the fascination with the degree to which people can get out of control," he told CTV News Channel Friday afternoon.
Fuhr also said that since the 1960s, there's been a growing body of research suggesting that the general public is more likely to question authority than in the past.
In the case of the Vancouver riots, he said the crowd seemed to be snapping photos of looting and vandalism undeterred, despite the heavy police presence seeking to disperse them.
With files from The Canadian Press