The man stands in the street with the blood-stained leg of a mannequin slung over his shoulder like a trophy and a crazy grin on his face.
He is posing for pictures at Georgia and Granville Streets, with a million sparkling cubes of safety glass on the sidewalk around him, and a line of riot police in black armour standing silently nearby, shields up.
The broken glass had showered down from the display windows that looters had shattered, one by one, as they worked their way along The Bay, where at Christmas time there are Nativity scenes.
“I did this to myself,” Sean Yates says, holding up a hand wrapped in a bloody rag. “I broke the window out . . . and my hand started bleeding and the next thing, somebody handed me the leg.”
So the mannequin leg is stained with his blood, and he is walking around proudly showing it off and people are posing for pictures with him while a police helicopter circles overhead, its powerful searchlight making the glass sparkle.
“I think it’s absolute mayhem,” he says happily. “The city is rioting just to see how far it can push it.”
A fire has erupted on Granville Street outside Pacific Centre. Young men are walking along the sidewalk smashing every window in the H&M clothing store.
Then a mounted horse unit takes the intersection at Granville and Georgia and the crowd runs ahead in panic.
Behind the mounted police, the foot unit advances when an officer bangs a shield. They walk slowly but steadily to secure the intersection, reclaiming the city one block at a time.
“Tear gas!” someone yells and the crowd runs again.
But the police have stopped, holding the intersection, and after a few minutes the brave rioters come sneaking back.
A man in a hoodie says to a young woman, “Give me 100 bucks,” then he pulls a hatchet out from under his sweater and tries to smash in a display window at Michael Kors to get at expensive purses. Another man lunges out of the crowd and takes a wild swing at him. The looter drops the hatchet and runs. Moments later, another young man picks up the hatchet and runs down the street cheering wildly. The crowd swallows him up.
At the corner of Hornby and Georgia, three men are lying on the pavement, part on the street, part in the gutter, with paramedics closing up knife wounds. Police are guarding the ambulance crew. But the crowd has moved on. The distinctive booming sound that plate-glass windows make when struck with a hard object draws them at the run.
When the glass breaks, with an explosive, hissing sound, people cheer.
The windows at Sears have been breached and people are running into the store and coming out with any stuff they can grab.
People are looting The Bay, too … but they come running out when a cloud of tear gas spreads through the building.
People are laughing and giving the looters high-fives.
A few blocks away, at the corner of Homer and Robson, a line of 10 riot police calmly holds its ground while people pelt them with bottles and shower them with obscenities.
When people start to rock a van, trying to tip it over and burn it, as has been done already near The Bay, the police advance just enough to push them back.
In the distance, there is the sound of explosions and a column of black smoke rises into the sky. It sounds like police flashbangs. The crowd cheers.
A group of 20 young men is trying to kick in the windows of Jimmy’s cold wine and beer store on Robson. The crowd urges them on with the chant: “We want booze, we want booze.”
Police fire a flashbang directly into the mob. There is a huge explosion … smoke … screams … people running.
At Robson and Richards, some men set a garbage can on fire. When another young man steps forward and puts it out, he is jumped, knocked to the ground, swarmed by five men and kicked violently. Others crowd in to help him, otherwise he might have been killed.
The air stinks of smoke, burning rubber, burning car upholstery.
“Vancouver burning down,” a man says, laughing, then breaking into a run toward the smoke.
Later, the police, moving with a contained professionalism that seems remarkable in the circumstances, push the crowd back from The Bay, away from Sears, away from the blood-stained streets outside the Hotel Vancouver. They break the back of the riot at midnight.
“Just go home,” police officers are heard saying to young people, over and over again.
They stopped the riot. And then crews started to clean the streets. But the damage to Vancouver will last for a long, long time after the mess is gone.
More than glass was broken in these streets. The city’s heart was broken, too.