Camille Cacnio didn’t set any fires on the night of the Vancouver riots. She didn’t jump on a police car or smash any windows. But when the University of British Columbia student walked over shards of glass into the smashed up Black & Lee formal wear shop and took two pair of men’s pants – some of the few items left on the store’s shelves – she became another face of the unrest that is now splashed across websites around the world.
The consequences have been swift and harsh for her and others whose actions were caught on camera during Wednesday night’s riots, even though police say they have yet to lay any formal charges related to the riot as of Sunday.
Social media has become the sheriff of this unlawful event, in essence rounding up a number of rioters by posting their pictures on the Internet and encouraging people to identify the people in them. That has led to online shaming of those named, some of whom have since turned themselves into police and are lining up to publicly apologize online.
Ms. Cacnio said in an interview that she confessed to police over the weekend, and was told they’ll deal with her case at a later date. She also lost the part-time job she held for two years as a receptionist at a Vancouver car dealership. (She later apologized in a blog post.)
The biology major has also lost many friends and acquaintances, all because of what she calls one alcohol-fuelled mistake she made after getting swept up in Wednesday’s riot.
“I fully admit to my mistake now, but the way I saw it at the time was that everyone was vandalizing, everyone was burning things. … At the time, I thought, ‘This would be funny if I took a souvenir’ because this is completely out of character,” Ms. Cacnio said.
Still, Ms. Cacnio believes the online backlash has gone too far in some instances. In her case, it’s the negative publicity now surrounding the Enspire Foundation, a charity she was once involved in. She said some online postings have recommended donations be directed elsewhere.
“The whole social media thing ... it’s great that people are trying to help catch and identify people, but it has become a problem in that people are actually ruining people’s lives. The consequences are far greater than they need to be,” Ms. Cacnio said.
Sienna St. Laurent, 14, has been ridiculed online ever since she posted on her blog that she smashed police cars and bus stops during the riots, even though her story wasn’t true.
In an interview Sunday, with her mother listening in the background, the Vancouver girl described returning home from downtown around 10:30 pm and sitting down to write about the shocking events she had just witnessed. Instead, she claimed to have taken part in the rioting, a move she now describes as “really, really embarrassing. I am really ashamed of it.”
“I wanted to be more a part of it, I guess. I don’t know what I was thinking. I wasn’t,” she said. Seconds after her post, she began to receive hate mail, which is still pouring in.
The next day, she joined the large group of volunteers that helped clean up the streets, and has learned the hard way the effect social media can have. The teen is also working on an apology video that will be posted online.
Another apology came over the weekend from a 17-year-old boy from Maple Ridge, B.C., whose picture was taken as he appeared to attempt to set a police car on fire during the Vancouver riot.
Nathan Kotylak said he must “atone” for his actions and that there was “no excuse for my behaviour.”
“It does not reflect the values that my family and community raised me to live by,” Mr. Kotylak said in a statement issued by his lawyer, Bart Findlay.
“In a moment, I acted in a way that is an embarrassment to my family, my school, my community, the Vancouver Canucks and the City of Vancouver. I am truly ashamed of what I did.”
Mr. Kotylak, who graduates this year from Meadowridge School, is a member of the Canadian junior national water-polo team and was planning to attend the University of Calgary next year. On Friday, Water Polo Canada announced a “provisional suspension” of an unnamed player who is understood to be Mr. Kotylak.
Mr. Findlay said the teen turned himself into police on Friday and that he and his family signed a formal waiver of his right to anonymity under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
“He wanted to make an apology,” Mr. Findlay said. “He felt horrible. He feels he has disgraced his parents, his teammates and his friends and he needed to take responsibility for his actions.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Findlay said the Kotylak family has left their home after a backlash from citizens angered by his involvement in the riot. He said the family’s home address has been published online and there have been threats that people will show up at the house. “Strangely that mob mentality unfortunately has percolated into the social media,” Mr. Findlay said.
A poll released Monday shows more than three-quarters of people living in B.C. and Metro Vancouver believe the riots were caused by a small group of people, and about two-thirds believe police properly handled the situation.
The Angus Reid online survey of 906 B.C. residents conducted late last week also says respondents expect only about a third of those who broke the law to be prosecuted. The poll also shows support for new measures to deal with crowds, and opposition to the idea of banning street parties.