It’s unlikely that images of Edna Bell pulling on her rubber gloves and picking trash off Robson Street – less than 12 hours after a clash between police and rioters – will appear on newscasts around the globe.
But bright and early Thursday morning, garbage bag in hand, there was Ms. Bell, doing her best to show the world what kind of citizens Vancouverites really are.
“I’m just totally disgusted with what went on last night,” Ms. Bell said as she tossed a battery into the bag.
“I love Vancouver. It’s a beautiful city and we want to keep it that way. There are some people who don’t want it that way and I wish they would just go somewhere else because we don’t want them here.”
Ms. Bell was one of several people who took to downtown streets around 7 a.m. to help clean up. The event was organized on the social networking site Facebook and thousands of people pledged to attend. The actual number didn’t appear to be anywhere near that size, perhaps partly because the city appeared to have gotten to a great deal of the refuse overnight.
But that didn’t stop Ms. Bell, who found enough trash to fill up one bag and was working on a second when she stopped briefly for an interview.
Sioban Ethier was stationed a few blocks away, outside The Bay, which had all of its windows smashed and was looted.
Ms. Ethier made the trip downtown from Mission, located about 70 kilometres east of Vancouver. Sweeping up broken glass with a broom, Ms. Ethier said she had been unable to sleep after watching video of the riot after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final and simply wanted to do what she could to help.
“I thought, ‘Well, this is close to home and I can do something about it and show other people that people care about Vancouver and we’re not all those crazed idiots that were making trouble,” she said.
Ms. Ethier said as disheartening as the riot was, it was inspiring to see residents come together to clean up.
Bruce Polchies, who was picking up garbage around the corner from Ms. Ethier, echoed her sentiments.
“Last year when we hosted the Olympics, there was nothing like this at all during the event. It’s a thing about pride and showing the rest of the country and North America this is really not what we’re about.”
Those picking up garbage weren’t the only ones doing what they could to try and rehabilitate Vancouver’s image. A new hashtag on the micro-blogging site Twitter appeared Thursday morning, dubbed #thisismyvancouver. It features tweets from residents about what makes their city great.
While some Vancouverites expressed their disappointment by cleaning up the city, others chose a different path. Workers repairing broken glass were treated to donuts by members of the community.
And, perhaps as part of the healing, hundreds of people scrawled positive messages on the plywood sitting in place of shattered windows. “This is NOT what we live for,” a spin-off of the Canucks’ playoff mantra, was a popular choice. Other messages chastised the rioters or expressed love for their beautiful city.
Just as those involved in the riot posed for photos in front of The Bay – which had its windows smashed and was looted – people outside the department store Thursday posed for pictures next to their writings.
The City of Vancouver issued a statement late Thursday morning thanking the volunteers.
"The final sparkle to our clean-up effort has been thanks to the scores of volunteers who headed Downtown this morning with determination, garbage bags and other supplies to help with the clean-up. Those efforts are truly inspiring and appreciated. The city is certainly returning to normal very quickly," the statement read.