The answer is simple: because they let them.Vancouver is an easy place to be a protestor. City government is left leaning and lends a sympathetic ear to a variety of special interest groups. Key among those would be Critical Mass; a civil disobedience force that rides through the downtown core each month to raise awareness for the rights of cyclists. Never mind that cyclists are bound by the same rules of the road that drivers must adhere to, these miscreants plow amongst the cars and cause hours of traffic jams.
No helmets are worn, no laws are respected. During this multi hour random ride through the heart of the city, police stand by and watch. They take no action. They make no arrests. They issue a warning to the public the event will happen and to alter travel plans, but they do nothing to stop its progress.
The Mayor courted support from Critical Mass to help gain the keys to City Hall and has been on a bike lane creating train ever since getting in to office.
There’s the Anti Poverty Committee. Another gang of thugs that hide behind balaclavas and hoodies who marched through the streets without consequence in the time leading up to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
There are the thousands who crowd the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery on the twentieth of April for a giant smoke in to encourage the legalization of marijuana. Again, another illegal act performed in the open public while a few dozen police officers stand to the side, content to let the mob have its way with the city.
Even the Olympics, despite a billion dollar security budget, opened with security problems as thugs scrambled through the core scaring tourists on every corner.
There was a caller to Vancouver radio station Team 1040 in the aftermath who told of first hand knowledge that some of those arrested were from Montreal and Toronto and had been involved in the G20 uprising in Toronto last summer. There were also some in custody from Portland and Seattle who had been barred entry to Canada in the days before the Olympics because they were seen as a threat to security.
I understand it’s hearsay, but it fits the profile of the situation and explains why molotov cocktails and balaclavas would suddenly appear amongst a crowd of hockey fans. In other words, people who put the “pro” in protesting are responsible.
Of course they would pick Vancouver as a place to practice their craft, it’s protest friendly. The Mayor’s in bed with them while the police sit and watch.
No, Vancouverites are not to blame for yet another black eye on the city’s resume. Drunk ignorant youth egged on by a savvy subculture can take the weight of that blame. But it shouldn’t come as any surprise that it happened.
Even as a mob burned a car outside Canada Post on Georgia St, police stood by and let the crowd feed itself on the flames for nearly an hour before making any effort to disperse the crowd. Just as with other civil disobedience by large groups in the city, the police stood to the side and watched. Waiting for it all to just end on it’s own, but that didn’t happen.
Civic leaders courting approval, police standing on the sidelines and judges handing insignificant punishments are the “you” I speak of. The citizens of Vancouver, on the hand, want nothing to do with this reputation.
As rioters trashed the city, others gathered on Facebook promising to clean things up the next day. As sun rose the next morning a forgiveness wall appeared on the boards covering broken windows. The wood covered in scrawls of apologies to the city and the fans. Still others passed photos and video of the incidents through social media chains in hopes that someone would know Brock Anton and he would be brought to justice.
Some call it a slippery slope towards a nanny state. I call it civic reponsibility.
If you don’t want people to break the law, don’t let them break the law. What Vancouver leadership has created is a culture of allowed civil disobedience that makes it a very easy mark for vandals.
Why did Vancouver burn in a riot? Simple, because they (city hall, police, judges) let them.
**UPDATE** I would also like to add the This Is My Vancouver campaign that has sprung from the ashes is brilliant.
The best part? It was crowd sourced. No marketing team with a budget to focus group test different slogans. Someone said it, people liked it, the city embraced it.
That’s the kind of grass roots, critical mass, peaceful protest that I can get behind.