Vancouver Final: Hooligans, sore losers or lack of city management?
What happened with the famous Vancouver good city image and its happy partiers? How come the people in charge, mayor and police forces, did not prevent it, seemed so unprepared for the fall-out of a potential loss of the Stanley cup that was already in the making, days before the last game?
The number of injured that needed to be treated in hospital was said to be around 150. The damage to businesses will be in the millions. Other countries had to deal with crowds of drunken sports fans, England as the most notorious example. The most obvious cause seems to be excessive drinking.
The question is: was it preventable?
In my younger days I have participated in demonstrations that were broken up by specially trained police forces in Amsterdam. The reason for the crowds gathering then were political, such as voicing the need for low cost housing for the young, who were squatting the empty industrial buildings in the city in desperation, or the demonstration was the expression of self determination when our government tried to restrict the self determination of women by proposing laws to restrict abortion. A major event in Amsterdam in the seventies generated ongoing riots for weeks on end. The city council had decided to tear down whole neighbourhoods of a few hundred years old in this city with serious housing shortages, to build a metro in Amsterdam. The riots resulted in the police developing Special Riot Forces to forcefully removed crowds, arresting many who resisted. The crowds were dispersed by motorized police and the cavalry, and let me tell you, when the horses come flying at you, nothing left to do but run. In addition, water cannons, tear gas, and tight rows of heavily equipped special police marching through the streets WILL move crowds.
In the case of sports events, things are different. The business of sport generates millions; I saw the amount of 11 million dollar mentioned as net profit of one game for the club. Now that is nothing to sneeze at. Games attract other profits as well for local business. An exceptional large police presence would look bad and possibly scare people off. With individual ticket prices of $500 one would expect a little courtesy and not to enter a war zone or police state when going to see a game. The street parties are sure fun, but really, should a city not be prepared to lose the game as well and think about possible repercussions? Should a city organize such street parties? It’s not that riots didn’t happen before in Canada. Police was blamed for excessive force at political events. In comparison to the security available at the North American Free Trade meetings and other political, international events such as the G 20, police protection was woefully inadequate this time around.
Next question: do sports fans have a drinking problem?
Another difference is that many people start drinking heavily at sports events, the game being an excuse for binge drinking for many with a drinking problem. People in Canada equate having a good time with drinking, often excessively. The word partying really means drinking for most. Not that this situation with drunken louts hasn’t happened before. I remember 1994–Vancouver–Stanley Cup.
Usually, within the crowd there are all kinds of people. Some like to watch and only need a few bad people to start something and then watch for a while and depending how many others join, possibly then join in later, or loot: the opportunists. Others stay back “to see what happens next”, hungry for sensation.
The people hanging back to watch those few criminal elements in effect perform a role as well: they are an audience and the performers–because they are performing–feel encouraged by their presence and continue because of them. To shut down the downtown was a mistake, as the busses to transport people who wanted to leave away from the downtown core could not continue to take people home.
Another question: what are we going to do as a society with those out-of-control youth?
These young people seem to have no vested interest in participating in a healthy manner, but have a lust for destruction. That tremendous force of youth is used elsewhere, such as in the Middle East, for tearing down old, oppressive regimes, with the motivation to create a better world, while the spoiled and criminalized offspring here just spoil the party for everyone. In short: bullies and also, criminals.
The notion of “anarchists” seems a bit farfetched to me. The misfits and unrestrained nasty people that are also a part of our society’s make-up, whether we like it or not, should not be allowed to take centre stage and get a political name that is inaccurate and seems an excuse by head of the Vancouver police who mentioned the word. His force should have been better prepared.
I also blame partly the parents who raised these criminally involved young people, for not having properly socialized their offspring. As adults they now lack any boundary and are throwing away their chances of becoming productive citizens, and, most likely, might not become healthy adaptively functioning fathers themselves. Now those little criminals need to be found, charged and processed within the criminal system. Too bad they could not have been arrested while in the act: it might have prevented a lot of the damage to the city and to its reputation.