Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vancouver Canucks Riots:: Critical Mass & Social Contagion in "No-Fun City"

Vidcap of Saltspring Island teacher Kristi Kallip attempting to keep the crowds at bay,
sitting atop a police car being smashed while holding out peace signs.
I'm not sure why, but I just had a feeling the Canucks were going to lose Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. It may well be from my experience in the 2002 World Series when San Francisco went up 3-2, only to lose two straight and series. So, when I was flipping around in the wee hours of EDT to catch the score, the Canucks loss was overshadowed by the riots following the loss. The Province has an interesting article on how Vancouver hasn't progressed since 1994 [see 1994 footage of 40-50,000 rioters taking to the streets], when the Canucks experienced a heartbreaking game 7 Stanley Cup loss. A Vancouver constable summed things up::
“People complain that this is a ‘No Fun City,’” said Const. Colin Naismith, lifting up his riot-protection mask. “Well, they had their chance. This is what happens when you let the floodgates open.”  
Rioter wielding a hockey stick takes out some frustrations on a Bank of Montréal branch.
I think the Vancouver Police made the right call in how they handled things, given that there were estimates of 100,000 people watching the game on Georgia St. on bigscreens in downtown. The scale of people out on the streets was immense and giving the crowd a reason to escalate the violence would have been a bad move. Imagine the use of coralling with 100,000 people on the streets. In contrast, during last year's G20 protests in Toronto, there were only 10,000 protestors and allegedly a splinter group of 2,000 black bloc was responsible for damage caused through vandalism. While it may be disturbing to see vandalism and property damage, it's a delicate balance between ensuring public safety and not pouring gasoline on the fire, given the huge crowd, and ensuring civil liberties. Moreover, a heavy-handed approach, a characterization levied at the Toronto Police for their handling of G20, can result in a PR fail and a sense that free speech rights within the Canadian Charter of Freedoms are being undermined, in the name of public safety. The Vancouver riot had nothing to do with public safety, but with a brutish Hobbesean state fueled by social contagion—as rioters sense a lack of consequences for acting out given the sheer scale of the mob, it gave more people the courage to act out. The best thing for law enforcement to do would be to focus on stopping any assaults and getting out videocameras to add to the panopticon of visual surveillance in the city consisting of about 1,000 cameras. Let the rioting crowd simmer down and document the vandalism and sort it all out later—criminally and civilly. Imperfect? Sure. Some scofflaws might get away with their vandalism or worse, but as evident in this case of a Toronto officer accused of assaulting a bystander during G20, the panopticon can catch up with you long after the emotion of the moment and the criminal deeds were done.

Here's some video footage from The Province, showing vandals, along with some concerned citizens trying to stop the violence::


Well, it makes one wonder what would have happened if Canada lost the hockey gold last February in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver {although the crowds on the street were in the tens of thousands, not 100,000} and also what would happen if election results were big screen televised public spectacles with large gatherings.


Finally, all of this reminds me of Paul Thomas Anderson's video for Fiona Apple's cover of "Across the Universe", on the soundtrack for Pleasantville {1998}::



Twitterversion:: [blog] #Vancouver Riots-Critical Mass & Contagion:powder keg w/ safety, property, civ liberties, & exacerbation at stake @Prof_K

1 comment:

Officer Mazaltoff said...

Ken,

Hopefully, thanks to the gawkers with their cameras, we are able to correctly identify those responsible for this gong show and they get what they deserve. Personally, I believe they deserve to have their homes looted and their vehicles burned so that they can feel what those who had their property/vehicles destroyed felt. I heard there was a woman who tried to get these fools to stop trashing her car and let her take her belongings from it and they punched her.

It boggles my mind that so many of these ass monkeys seem to have forgotten we now live in a digital age where every phone has a camera that can record you and your childish behaviour. Even more shocking is that so many of these morons were actively posing in front of their destruction.

The sad part of all this, is that it really didn't matter how the game ended, those who started rioting and looting were intent on starting a riot as if the '94 riot were an event to commemorate. Earlier that day, I had a guy get angry at me for not wanting to help him drink his liquor. Letting folks all congregate in one area, unlike the Olympics, which had multiple sites, certainly didn't help either.

I'm so glad that the majority of this city came together yesterday to help clean up the mess left behind and hope that this story gets more play than the rioting.

Congrats to the Bruins for their win and to Tim Thomas for his Conn Smyth award. They truly deserve it and should be allowed to celebrate this victory with having the riot overshadow their success this season.