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Police, city mull end to street parties in Vancouver

Vancouver's police chief is calling for an end to the street parties that exploded into a full-blown riot even as other prominent voices – including the city's mayor and authors of an independent review – argue the events should remain to avoid ceding the streets to "thugs."

But while the city made it clear it doesn't want to pull the plug on large events, it no longer appears interested in running them itself.

The Vancouver Police Department released its internal riot review Tuesday. The 101-page document details the events leading up to the June 15 mayhem, as well as the lessons that have since been learned.

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The report recommends that Vancouver "not have large scale public events with 'festival seating/standing' that concentrate large crowds of young persons – particularly the young 'hooligan' demographic – who have the propensity for drinking in a small area."

Speaking with reporters after the release of the review, Chief Constable Jim Chu said he's not against all public-space events, especially those that draw more of a family crowd.

"When you attract a certain demographic, that's when the radar has to go on and we have to say, 'Look, given the number of people that were going to be attracted to this particular event, we're going to have to think twice about whether we want to have it.' "

The police department's stance is in direct contrast to an independent riot report released last week. In their review, chairs Douglas Keefe and John Furlong wrote: "The streets should not be surrendered to thugs and villains. People should be able to congregate downtown in harmony without the need for police on every corner."

In his comments to reporters Tuesday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was just as unwilling to cancel large public events.

"People want to come downtown to celebrate, want to watch the game together. I think we just have to reshape how we do that, look at better ways of organizing live sites, ensuring that the security and the policing is all in place proactively, looking at next best practices for setting this up in the downtown and ensuring that what happened on June 15 does not happen again."

One manner in which the city might reshape major events is to let someone else organize them.

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At a special council meeting to discuss the city's own staff-prepared riot review, deputy manager Sadhu Johnston said the city should get out of the business of organizing such events in the future.

Mr. Johnston said external sponsors need to be responsible for these events, with the city's role reduced to that of facilitator, similar to the way the huge Celebration of Light fireworks extravaganza is run.

If the Canucks make another Stanley Cup play, the city would like to work with the team and the National Hockey League "to see how these events could be managed in the future," he told council members.

Mr. Robertson said if there aren't any places for people to congregate for Canucks playoff games in the future, tens of thousands of people might flock downtown anyway and "ramble around, looking for trouble."

"There's varying opinions on how you activate the downtown to ensure people have something to do," he said. "We're going to look at live sites in the future. We have learnings from the Olympics and now the Stanley Cup playoffs to look at."

Chief Chu said one option that might be available next time around would be to open BC Place Stadium – home of the Canadian Football League's BC Lions – so fans could watch the game on a giant screen, but in a controlled environment. The stadium is currently under major construction.

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The police report said ticketing public gatherings is a way to guarantee entrance for families, while controlling capacity and limiting overflow. Vancouver police asked the city to ticket during the Canucks' playoff run, but the city said it didn't have the capability to do so on short notice.

The police report also recommended the installation of CCTV cameras, an increase in liquor fines and penalties, the slowing down of public transit when there's a capacity issue downtown, and that all police forces in the region train together for large events.

No charges have been laid in connection with the riot – something for which Vancouver police have been roundly criticized.

Chief Chu said he expects charges to start being laid in October.

"The charges will come in batches. After the video [evidence]is processed, there will be a short time period while we verify certain facts. That's when the charges will start being sent to Crown counsel. … The video will be processed by the second week of October. After that is when we plan to start laying charges."

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