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Rights + Justice

Vancouver's Worst Riot: 20 Questions

Could it have been prevented, or minimized? The public deserves answers.

Bob Mackin 18 Jun

Veteran reporter Bob Mackin covered last week's riot for the New York Times and 2010 Olympics security issues for The Tyee and others.

1. Did authorities conduct a proper and thorough threat and risk assessment?

2. Did the Vancouver Police Department (and partners from the RCMP, Abbotsford Police, West Vancouver Police and elsewhere) conduct a table-top exercise with the Vancouver Fire and Rescue, the B.C. Ambulance Service and the private security contractors at the fan zone to plan for a worst-case scenario?

3. Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu now looks foolish after being so confident before game seven that no riot would happen. What was the basis for his confidence?

4. What role did Transit Police or SkyTrain security have in watching for drunks with backpacks or objects?

5. Why did city hall not open the Pacific Coliseum or Forum for public viewing or erect a big screen outdoors on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds? A secondary or alternative venue elsewhere in the city could have lessened crowds on Georgia Street.

6. A teenager was arrested in a sting operation for attempting a car bombing at the Christmas tree-lighting in Portland, Ore. last November. So, why was a vehicle allowed in the parking lot at the main post office amid a crowd of thousands? It became one of the first to be overturned and torched. Destruction and mayhem multiplied among the monkey see, monkey do crowd.

7. Temporary fencing at the fan zone was used by hooligans as a projectile when the mounted squad approached. Why were the fences not bolted to the ground or weighted with concrete barriers that could only be moved by forklift?

8. Why were people permitted to sit on the awning above an entrance to the post office? It was not designed for seating.

9. Fire trucks were slow to arrive on scene to douse burning vehicles, garbage cans and random bonfires. Why weren't police embedded with firefighters to ensure they could safely and rapidly arrive to douse the fires?

10. Instead of tear gas and pepper spray, why wasn't the crowd hosed? Cold water, wet clothes and soggy shoes can turn drunk bullies into sissies rather quickly.

11. In 1994, the Department of National Defence's Beatty Street Armoury was where riot police gathered before marching up Robson Street. This time, the facility near both Rogers Arena and the fan zone was the site of a Stanley Cup party. A Canucks flag hung from the rafters, and the strong smell of beer was detected when the door was opened for a reporter. The doorman, in military fatigues, refused to identify himself and claimed they weren't tasked. Why did the troops not volunteer to support civil authorities when the riot moved across the street?

12. Why didn't the Vancouver Canucks take an active role in planning the event and trying to prevent trouble? The Aquilini family-owned Canucks profited from every jersey, T-shirt and hat sold, but the organization laughably claimed that rioters dressed in blue, green and white merchandise were not fans. Carefully worded public service announcements encouraging fans to respect the law and their fellow citizens starring Canucks' goaltender Roberto Luongo and even the Bruins' Vancouver-born forward Milan Lucic could have been produced especially for airing on the fan zone screens.

13. Will the riot affect planning for the Celebration of Light fireworks festival or the next big national sporting event, November's Grey Cup?

14. Should the provincial government take a second-look at the retail of alcohol and perhaps increase the legal drinking age to 20 or 21?

15. Georgia Street was a risky place to hold such an event, as it was not a natural, proven site for a mass-gathering. Will city hall consider planning a true civic square amid Northeast False Creek?

16. What will the final cost be for taxpayers?

17. Should the federal and provincial governments contribute anything to the City of Vancouver's bills or send city hall an invoice instead? From paramedics to prosecutors, Victoria is shouldering extra costs. Federal taxpayers are on the hook for RCMP and CBC involvement.

18. How many civil lawsuits and criminal charges will be disputed?

19. Will there be an independent inquiry?

20. If one subscribes to the "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" maxim, and after so much destruction in 1994 and 2011, should downtown business owners oppose another "everyone's invited" outdoor viewing party if the Canucks play in the Stanley Cup final again?  [Tyee]

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