There was a Hockey Game, and after the Hockey Game, as some of us feared, a few idiots found a way to make sure the spotlight shone on them… for all the wrong reasons.
I’m a Twitter Geek, and the first tweet that made me realize the seriousness of the situation was one from George Moen, who runs Blenz Coffee, who said that three of their locations had been trashed, and they were working to find out if their people were accounted for and unharmed.
I sent him a tweet, with my hopes that his people were okay, and asking if he needed a hand on Thursday or heard of anyone needing help, to please let the twitter community know.
Mere moments after that, it became aware to me that a LOT of people were going to need help… so I grabbed my shoulder bag, and started scouring the house looking for garbage bags, work gloves and other stuff I thought I might need.
By the time I got back to my computer, I heard that someone had started the twitter account @VancouverClean, and I was able to share this project, to try to raise awareness.
And countless others were doing the same.
At 1 am, I decided to call it a night. I had a fitful night… never sleeping for more than a few minutes at a time… sad at Vancouver apparently becoming a “thug” town.
The next morning I got up at 5:30, prepared to join my wife on her daily journey from Pitt Meadows into town, uncertain what I would encounter there.
People on the West Coast Express all looked at me, as I got on in my Canucks jersey… I think a few may have thought I was mistakenly going to the game on the wrong day… but nobody said anything… just gave me furtive, grimacing looks.
On the way in, I sent an e-mail to my mid-morning appointment, apologizing for cancelling, and explaining my reason.
When I got downtown, I looked at Twitter, and the Vancouver Police Department had given @VancouverClean the go ahead to help the City crews that had been working all night. (It was feared that there might be a delay, as much of the downtown core was a crime scene, but by 7:30, all investigation was complete.)
The morning started slowly.
I started at Howe and Dunsmuir, worked my way East to Seymour, and up Seymour to Georgia. There I met up with a few guys with brooms, and we traversed further along to Nelson, where they headed towards Cambie, and I continued towards Beach. It was just after 8 am, and the few pedestrians that were out were giving me looks, as if to say… “You got caught, and are doing community service already?” So I started engaging them in conversation, as they passed me… smiling and saying “Good morning!”
About an hour, and an industrial garbage bag later, I ran into another volunteer, Sasha, who had also come downtown to help out. We worked our way back through Yaletown, towards the downtown core, picking up everything… Pizza boxes, bloody gauze bandages, blue EMT gloves, transit passes, and LOTS of cigarette butts. Broken beer bottles. Smashed plastic cups. Lots of torn up plants. Several different shoes… (each a single), and slippers (a pair). Lots of half eaten food. A lot of bags filled with sloshy liquids, that I didn’t want to investigate or guess the contents.
Several times we were approached by folks, who came by with backpacks filled with cold drinks for the workers.
After the ugliness of the previous evening, it was a beautiful, glorious, cleansing day. The sunshine also helped to chase away the darkness of the previous night’s events.
Some people (mostly older) stopped us and asked us if we worked for the city, and were astonished when we said no… we were just pitching in, with a lot of other people, after the previous night’s chaos. All then were quick to offer thanks and express appreciation.
The ONLY dissonant note we came across, was a tall, well dressed man, who walked by, and then walked over to talk to us… “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” “HOW CAN YOU EVEN SHOW YOUR FACES TODAY?” Well, sir, the REAL fans are NOT the ones who did this… the damage was done by drunken idiots, taking advantage of being anonymous in the crowd.” “ALL CANUCKS FANS ARE GOONS” “No, sir… we’re not. What you saw was sadly a very visible few” And then, the obvious flailing started… “YOU AREN’T GOING TO CHANGE ANYTHING.” “We’ll make the downtown area cleaner, again” And the final non-sequitor arguments… “YOU STRAIGHT GUYS CAN’T ROCK A JERSEY, ANYWAY!!!” To which I was so non-plussed, I said nothing… “YOU SHOULD TAKE THAT %$#@ING JERSEY OFF… IT’S UGLY” “Sir, you need to go about your business, and try to have a good day.” He kept shouting, as he went away… and while initially angered, it became apparent to me that he was just traumatized, and saddened… and my Canucks jersey had become a symbol to him of the harsh ugliness of the night before.
But the Canucks and their true fans had no part in the chaos. There were a few doppelgangers, who disguised themselves as Canuck fans, but were really there to wreak havoc, under the guise of a public gathering… thinking that in a large crowd, they could get away with something that they couldn’t otherwise.
A lot of people are angry. This gent had it triggered by the sight of me in my Canuck jersey. Others have latched onto publicly berating (supposedly) identified vandals. For myself, I felt it best to focus on the positive aspect of getting on with the cleanup, and leaving the identification and prosecution of those responsible to those who have it in their job description. If I’m in a self appointed position, the job of sheriff wasn’t available… so I took the job of street cleaner.
As we worked through the streets of Gastown, up and along East Hastings, and back towards Robson Square, people from all walks of life and all levels of society were gracious and grateful for the efforts of the whole @VancouverClean team.
As we journeyed, along, crossing paths with other members of the clean up crew, we too would shout encouragements and whoop “Thank you’s!!!”
It was hours of very hard work… crawling on hands and knees, picking up shards of glass and cleaning the aftermath of a large unruly crowd. But it was also a GREAT day, right up there with my opportunity to run the Olympic Torch… because to me, there is a great satisfaction in working to right a wrong, and fix something that needs fixing… and this was a City working together to Exorcise a Demon.
And we took our city back from the Demon.
This is my city…
And you will not take her over, again.