I know this isn’t strictly a travel post, but given the events in my home town last night I ask my dear readers for this indulgence. As most of the world has learned, we had a riot in Vancouver. This is an account of my experience in photos.
Ice hockey is a woven into the fabric of existence for many Canadians. Some of us live for hockey to the extent that many Europeans do for football, but during the playoffs even the most casual hockey fans get involved. On June 15, 2011 most people in our city were on pins and needles because the Vancouver Canucks were playing in the 7th and deciding game for the Stanley Cup championship. In the 40 year history of our NHL team Vancouver has yet to win a championship and we had only been to the finals twice before. After two months of playoffs there was a chance that we would finally win.
For the past few games tens of thousands of fans met downtown to view the game on giant screens, including one at a viewing site set up on Georgia Street, the main road through downtown which was shut down to host the party. I was headed downtown because I was one of the lucky 18,860 people with tickets to the game.
I arrived at Rogers Arena around 4:30pm to find our playoff towels nicely lined up on our seats. The tradition of swirling white towels at games was started by Roger Neilson, the coach of the Canucks when they went on their first trip to the finals in 1982.
The game was scheduled to start shortly after 5:00pm, but the arena was still fairly empty because people were still getting off of work.
As this is not a hockey post, I’ll spare you the details of the game, except to say that we lost and the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup. Congratulations to them! Being a fan of the sport, I was happy to stick around and watch their celebration. I knew that this may be the only time in my life that I get to see a Stanley Cup presentation.
As the celebrations dragged on, word began to spread that a car had been lit on fire outside. We decided to stay inside the arena to wait out the trouble. In doing so we met many Bruins fans and couldn’t help but be happy for them.
We were kicked out of the arena around 9:30pm and were among the last to leave. Based on the pictures I was seeing on Twitter it looked like the worst had passed. The area around the arena was mostly deserted.
We wanted to walk towards up towards Georgia Street where the car fire was. We were told that there was tear gas and directed the other way, but decided that we would take a peek and take the long way around if it looked bad. When we got close we could see that there was still a crowd but it looked fairly peaceful.
We didn’t want to wade into the crowd, so we stayed on the perimeter of the city. On the way to our cars we witnessed small crowds of people huddled around TVs watching what was going on mere blocks away.
It really wasn’t difficult to get out of the city safely. Many people interviewed in the mobs made the excuse that they couldn’t get out but they only had to walk a few blocks away to find relative peace. I got in my car and left thinking that the worst was over. This is what the city looked like as I was leaving.
As I drove over the Lions Gate Bridge towards the North Shore, I heard on the radio that more violence had erupted and up to 6 cars were now on fire. I caught glimpses of more smoke in my mirrors so I drove up to the higher elevations of North Vancouver where I knew there were good city views. By then there were at least three new columns of black smoke.
I then headed home where on TV I witnessed the further downward spiral of violence in my city. Sadness, anger, and embarrassment filled me just as it did the many other people expressing themselves on Facebook and Twitter.
As a positive prologue, the sun came up the next day. Newscasts were filled with stories of volunteers descending on downtown with brooms and garbage bags to help clean up the mess and messages of love, hope, and peace written on the plywood coveing broken windows downtown. Unfortunately the real garbage had already left when the police managed to clear out the troublemakers in the middle of the night.
This post was also submitted as my entry for Travel Photo Thursday, a weekly collection of travel photos by Budget Traveler’s Sandbox.