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The Globe and Mail

Bystanders share experiences of Vancouver riots after Stanley Cup loss

Mark Venditti was outside the Vancouver Art Gallery when the riot squad came to clear out the area, Vancouver, June 15, 2011.

Robert Matas/ The Globe and Mail/Robert Matas/ The Globe and Mail

Through much of Wednesday afternoon, it was, finally, a day of sunny celebration in Vancouver, a welcome departure from a cloudy and cold spring. But in an instant, the mood shifted from jubilation to disappointment - and then mindless rage.

What had been a unified crowd of spectators splintered. For hundreds of trouble-makers equipped with the tools of modern anarchy - hammers, fire accelerants and balaclavas - it was a chance for a rampage of destruction, arson and assault. But tens of thousands of innocents were trapped, trying to flee the escalating violence.

Even with a car burning on a major Vancouver thoroughfare, police held off responding for several crucial minutes, enough time for a handful of trouble-makers to become a mob. The police said the delay was to avoid injury to innocent bystanders.

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But it meant the fan zone became a zone of anarchy. If only for a few minutes, the protection of the police vanished from parts of downtown Vancouver, and those who had been hoping to celebrate the thrill of a Stanley Cup win were instead plunged into the worst riot in Vancouver's history. The clouds were back. Here are some of their stories


Heather Bourke was attending a performance of Wicked at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre with her husband, right next to where the riots began. Ms. Bourke, 32, is 5-1/2 months pregnant, and the mother of a two-year-old boy.

The play started a minute or two after the game ended. It was quite calm. No one was concerned. At intermission the curtain went down and someone came on the p.a. and said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, due to a situation outside, please remain inside the building.' Everyone just froze.

Then everyone went to the windows and stared out. It was unbelievable. Right in front of us: cars on fire, people being beaten up all around us, every direction you looked - smoke. When I went back to my seat, I noticed that I was trembling a little bit. I've never felt the baby kick so much in my life. I think the baby was in distress because of my hormones.

After the play was over, we were told to remain seated while Vancouver Police worked out a safe way for us to leave. Everyone was pulling out cells and getting updates. We had no idea what was happening. It's kind of scary when you don't know how bad it is. Before we left, we got specific directions: You must turn right, do not turn left. A man sitting beside us with an 11-year-old daughter asked how we were getting home. He drove us right to our door.

Marsha Lederman

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Wesley Van Dyke, Vancouver street artist, 44, who was trying to sell his wares in the city core.

I was downtown to display and sell my paintings on the pavement in front of a shoe store on Granville Street. A stranger came over and deliberately knocked over my bicycle. The bicycle crashed to the ground, snuffing out the flame on a torch built on the rear of the bike.

I ran after the man, but another stranger - a man - came out of nowhere and bodychecked me. That allowed the first man to get away.

How could someone feel brave and tough doing that. I remember the 1994 Stanley Cup riots. I thought people grew up, that they learned since the last riot. I cannot figure out why people would try to get in the way of someone, like me, selling art in order to make others happy.

Ian Bailey

Mark Venditti was outside the Vancouver Art Gallery when the riot squad with plastic shields came to clear out the area.

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My arm is bloody from what police did to me. I was standing with my hands in my pockets. I was not aggressive or anything. I was completely passive. The police rushed in and that was all. I did not have any alcohol in my possession, no drugs. I just stood there.… 'You have to move on,' they shouted at me. And then they shoved me to the ground. I got up and put my hands in my pocket. They pepper-sprayed the area. I wiped it off with my bandana. They shoved me up against that barricade. They put me in handcuffs behind my back. I was just standing still. I was yelling, 'I am standing still with my hands in my pocket, passively.' It was my mantra, I kept saying it over and over. I said, 'Are you arresting me?' A guy read me my rights but I don't think it was the whole thing. He talked to his supervisor. I overheard him say, 'Can we detain him, do we have enough to hold this guy?' I was just standing there by myself. Then they decided to let me go. They struggled to take the cuffs off. They realized I was lawful and I did not do anything. So they let me go.

Robert Matas

Sioban Ethier, Mission, B.C., resident and photographer.

I saw some guy beating on a newspaper box. I didn't care so much about the newspaper box but I was really angry about what was happening. Adrenalin kicked in and I just went and I said, 'Stop!' He couldn't really get across me to the newspaper box. He stopped and froze. Someone else said, 'You've got to just let it go.' I said, 'No, I'm not.' Then I turned around and four policemen came and they took him, they handcuffed him. Then I heard [the crowd]yelling at the police, 'Let him go! Let him go!'

It was really upsetting to be here. I've been to Northern Ireland many times. I've never witnessed those riots, but I felt like I was there. It takes a lot to scare me but I was scared. It was crazy.

Sunny Dhillon

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