In my last post, I mentioned that I felt I was only eligible for the job of street cleaner.
Sadly, in the wake of the Vancouver riot, it seems that a LOT of people have appointed themselves not only Judge, Jury… but potentially Executioner, as well.
For anyone who is unaware, Vancouver has enjoyed a spectacular few years, with the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the joyous crowds gathering together to celebrate the Canucks run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Until Game 7.
There was a different vibe for Game 7, which was tangible from before the Game’s start… in social media… in conversations… people were uncertain that the atmosphere would be the same as it had been previously.
I do not have enough knowledge of circumstances and situations to start to cast shadows of blame on the Police Department. Certainly, the Police have my utmost respect, for doing the best they can. Whether the VPD planners should have been more prepared for a bad situation is open for debate, in my opinion… but by better, more informed people than myself, and I am not going to wade into a conversation, when I don’t know the facts. But the individual Vancouver Police Officers have, and will continue to have, my respect and support.
The ugliness started, and idiots, fueled by crowds of “citizen journalists” and an apparent lack of response from the authorities, strove to outdo one another with acts of bravado and vandalism. Damage a car? Sure. Roll the car over? Better. Set it on fire? Great. Pee on the burning car, or jump on it and have your picture taken? Awesome.
But there weren’t enough cars available to assuage the hunger of the crowd, so the mob, swept up in some frenzied quest for displays of their power, went to the shopping areas, where the large plate glass windows were tempting targets for their collective rage… the mannequins in the display windows suitably flammable… and the products behind the smashed glass too tempting to pass up.
The observers captured it all on the upheld cameras and cellphones.
A brave few tried to intervene, but their efforts went largely unheeded, by a crowd prepared to express and expose their power, regardless of the people watching and capturing it.
A few hours later, the cleanup began.
Both in a literal, and figurative sense.
People gathered together in physical groups that manifested themselves in the downtown area… sweeping, cleaning, scrubbing… trying to restore a sense of normalcy, and remove the scorch marks and “stains” that the city and its reputation had gained, overnight.
People also gathered together online, and began to share with the Police the photographic evidence of what they had seen.
And, as they posted the evidence online, they also began sharing it amongst themselves.
“Let’s identify this guy” “Somebody must know this girl”
Until many were (apparently) identified, and their names, cities and a short bio were being circulated.
And then it transferred beyond Social Media.
I got an e-mail from a person, who is not on Twitter or Facebook, showing three individuals, complete with photos… and their information.
Some members of the community were gathering together, and with the same frenzy, were lashing out against these vandals.
Except there was no due process.
No one in authority reviewing or weighing any evidence… looking at whether it might be someone who looks like them… whether they have an alibi…
None of that.
Just a “The system won’t punish them properly, so we’ll do it ourselves” vigilante-style frontier justice.
One of the people identified in the e-mail, lives a few kilometers from my house.
It was easy for me to look up, the information in the e-mail gave me the Father’s name.
EXCEPT THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OR CORROBORATION THAT IT IS HIM.
And even if there was… It ISN’T my job !!!
If I was that Dad, and I found out that my family had been identified publicly by what seemed EVERY BIT a lynch mob… I would have left my house, and taken my family away… fearful that some do-gooder is going to come by and do an equally rash act, to “even things up.”
If you have photos of vandals, send them to the Police.
The Police will sift through the evidence, and if there is enough proof, pass the case along to Crown Counsel, and it will proceed through the proper channels.
If you take the law into your own hands, in my opinion you are no better than the vandals.
You have been swept up by an angry mob, bent on causing damage… and not caring who gets hurt in the process.
I am a Social Media guy.
I love that within hours of the riot starting on Wednesday, there was a group forming online to try to help make things better.
We all saw the power of talking, and gathering together, in Egypt and Libya.
However, there is also a nastiness online, called cyber-bullying.
We must be vigilant that in our efforts to help out, we do not cause more harm.
An ugly mob is an ugly mob… whether on the side of “right” or “wrong”.
Posted 5 hours later:
And apparently many of the identified vandals and their families have received threats.
A sad day indeed…
The rioters do not represent my City…
But the vigilantes don’t represent my Social Media, either.
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.