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Vancouver Ashamed After Rioting, But Damage Is Superficial

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VANCOUVER RIOTS 2011
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"Go home! Go home! Go home! Stop looting our beautiful city!" That Tweet sent to the @CBCNews twitter feed summed up the feelings of an overwhelming majority of Vancouverites after this week's hockey riots that erupted -- and damaged -- the city's downtown.

The CBC reported Thursday morning that "the riots have damaged the reputation of Vancouver in the worldwide business community," but closer to home, average Vancouverites were shocked and disgusted. They still are, and they want the rampaging morons punished.

The CBC got one e-mail from a transplant that read:

"I moved to Vancouver from Calgary eight months ago, and I've been e-mailing people for months about how wonderful this city is. I still can't believe this happened. I'm so ashamed. This is not the Vancouver I know."

One caller told Vancouver's all-news radio station News 1130,

"I watched last night's game with my two young children, and they were disappointed when the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins. But then the riots started, and they came to me with tears on their eyes saying, "Mommy...why?'"

As I noted in my MarketWatch.com Canada column, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson called the actions of the hockey hooligans -- quelle surprise, they were almost all young males -- "despicable."

"Today," one Vancouverite e-mailed CBC.ca, "I hang my head as if I'm the mother of a bad child."

"These are NOT hockey fans," said one angry News 1130 caller.

This was the first major riot of any kind in this city named the most liveable city in the world by The Economist recently for the fifth straight year since similar riots and looting in 1994 following the Canucks' Stanley Cup loss in New York to the Rangers. Damages from that rioting downtown was $1.1 million.

Most media reports say that the rioting and looting will cost the city and its businesses far more than that. Shattered windows lined Granville Street in the downtown Vancouver business district, and city/business cleanup crews were augmented by private citiizens appalled by the damage who rushed in to help, alerted by social media. Buses were quickly running again, and business commuters who'd just arrived Thursday morning were shaking their heads at the broken glass and other meathead-inflicted damage they witnessed.

The live coverage of the riots on Vancouver's TV stations left me shaking my head, too: I was in Vancouver just a few days ago, and found it hard to believe that pleasant and civilized downtown Vancouver was out of control like that, with Canucks-jersey-wearing morons by the hundreds throwing drunken punches, stomping on cars, and breaking windows. Like most Canadians were doing, I could only shake my head at these sad, atypical sights.

Two burning police cars in a downtown parking reminded me of a similar sight last summer at the G20 summit in Toronto. Toronto police arrested and tracked down many of the ringleaders and chief troublemakers in those widespread riots last year, even extraditing some of them from the United States to face charges.

That seemed likely to happen again following Vancouver's hooliganism. News 1130 used this tease this morning:

"Vandals and looters: You know who you are -- but others know who you are, too."

CBC Vancouver -- under whose downtown windows much of the rioting started, reported Thursday morning that it had been deluged with cell phone videos and still photos of many of the worst offenders. It seems likely that Vancouver police will be looking at those closely.

The CBC also carried a piece saying that Facebook groups will "aim to I.D. rioters."

One piece of cell-cam footage was especially disturbing: A middle-aged man, singlehandedly trying to stop a crowd of drunken males from looting the big downtown Bay department store. He was overwhelmed and then pummeled and beaten by the looters. CBC said it had no reports on that intrepid soul's condition, but Vancouver officials have reported only injuries (many burns) and no deaths so far.

The CBC and CTV networks also reported that Vancouver riots was the number-one trending topic on Twitter worldwide Wednesday night.

One CBC reporter based in Washington, D.C. (I didn't get her name) said testily that U.S. cable networks' coverage of the Vancouver mayhem was "condescending, as coverage of Canadians often is. The coverage was along the lines of 'What's happening with those nice Canadians?'" she fumed.

Disgust was the most common Vancouver -- and Canadian -- reaction following the riots.

"What planet do I live on?" one woman in distant Nova Scotia e-mailed the CBC in Vancouver. "I will never support Vancouver or the Canucks again."

Local Vancouver TV carried reports saying that glass will be in short supply in Vancouver for some time to come.

Before yesterday's big game, CBUT-TV (the Vancouver CBC affiliate) had carried stories about precautionary police moves -- closing liquor stores early, getting rid of newspaper boxes downtown, taking away any possible projectiles. Police feared something like last night's riots might happen if the hometown team lost, and they had made plans.

But watching the live local TV coverage of the fires, street fights, and looting, it was obvious they were outmanned. Around 10 p.m., as RCMP units and other reinforcements from suburban communities arrived, the tide began to turn and the drunken rioters dispersed. Until then, the Vancouver cops had been the model of restraint, attacking few rioters and occasionally firing tear-gas cannisters. But this was a heedless bunch of drunks, and only when they're brought up on charges will many of them finally sober up. Count on it.

"The rioters were largely a group of stupid guys who came into downtown from the suburbs or from other cities across the province and western Canada," said one talk-show caller. "They were looking for trouble, especially if Vancouver lost."

Vancouver lost, all right -- the team AND the city. And lovely Vancouver now has a black eye because of it.

But the superficial injuries will soon heal. The shame and embarrassment among Vancouverites and other Canadians will linger, however.

Vancouver is genteel, civilized and prosperous. It will survive nicely, thank you.

One woman from Washington state who lives not far south of Vancouver tweeted: "Can't imagine how sick Vancouverites must feel this morning looking at the riot's aftermath in their beautiful city."

The beginning of one CBC-TV newscast Thursday morning summed up the whole situation::

"People are waking up in Vancouver today not believing what happened."

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