A complicated answer to a complicated situation
By Mo Hussain, Sports Reporter
The city had witnessed a riot for essentially the same reason in 1994 when the Vancouver Canucks lost in game seven of the Stanley cup finals to the New York Rangers.
To conclude our discussion on the 2011 Vancouver riot, we are going to try our best to answer arguably the most important question: could the 2011 Vancouver riot have been avoided?
The answer to that question (from the sources and reports looked into for this article) is ultimately, no. In hindsight, no government institution and private firm could have really anticipated or controlled the magnitude of what transpired.
There were roughly over 150,000 people in a public space (which included many intoxicated people and a segment of that group looking to stir up some trouble) who had just witnessed their team lose the final game of the season. When you consider the city’s history with riots after a sports loss and add in social media where people could share their reactions to that result instantaneously, some might say that’s a prerequisite for mayhem.
Another answer to that question is also described in Vancouver Police Department (VPD)’s “2011 Stanley Cup Riot Review”: “The solutions to preventing riots are much more complex than policing alone because the factors that can lead to a riot are so complex themselves.”
However, could the VPD and other public and private institutions have mitigated what transpired to some extent by being a little more prepared and cautious? Probably.
In the same “2011 Stanley Cup Riot Review” mentioned prior, the VPD states how there was essentially “no information that a riot would occur,” and that “few credible analysts have asserted, even in hindsight, that more officers […] would have prevented a riot given the massive size of the crowd.”
While it is understandable that the riot could not have been avoided entirely, one might raise an eyebrow at the notion that there was absolutely no inclination that a riot would occur. The city had witnessed a riot for essentially the same reason in 1994 when the Vancouver Canucks lost in game seven of the Stanley cup finals to the New York Rangers.
The size of the officers deployed on that day were based on “experience, information, and the professional judgment of VPD planning staff,” and Vancouver hosted a similar event when Canada played the United States in the men’s gold medal match and no chaos ensued then. One can say that it is not too far fetched to assume that there would be some looking to repeat history once again on that night.
The city hosted a public event for plenty of fans that had might have had a history of causing mayhem when their team lost, some of those people were likely going to consume plenty of alcohol. So, an argument can be raised on how that event should’ve been monitored a lot closer and perhaps preparing for a worst-case scenario would have been reasonable.
“Crowds poured into downtown most of the day at the rate of up to 500 people every 60 to 90 seconds from trains alone,” said John Furlong who co-authored the independent review of the incident titled “The Night the City Became a Stadium.”
Even when the riot did break out, “the transition was slow due to communications problems and location of the riot equipment in the packed streets,” said Douglas Keefe who co-authored the same report in a CTV News article. According to him it took 40 minutes for officers to transition into their tactical gear and the location where it was cached “was not a good location.”
However, although there are probably many other adjustments that the VPD, public institutions, and private firms could have made to mitigate the situation, hindsight is always 20/20. It is much easier to see the adjustments that should’ve been made looking back as someone who isn’t an expert on the situation. Thankfully, no one was killed, and the city fortunately had plenty of volunteers who were willing to help clean up and repair some of the damage that was done
Let us not let that take our eyes off the real root of the problem—which were the rioters themselves. They were the ones that made an already disappointing night into a much bigger problem that transcended hockey and hurt a lot people in many ways. All we can do now is hope that once the Canucks make the Stanley Cup finals again, the city will collectively be much more prepared to deal with the potential of this situation occurring again.