Vancouver Riots 2011 : when social media work for justice

Granville Island, Vancouver (BC) © WnnR

Dear reader, do you have any idea how it feels to live in Vancouver ? Well… I do ! I’ve spent four months of my life up there in 2011, and trust me, what you read, hear and see in the media is true : Vancouver is one of the best places in the world, and according to a ranking established by The Economist, it is the third most livable city on the planet nowadays. The reason I am now narrating you this part of my life is not a crucial need to talk about myself. I simply want you to keep in mind that Vancouver is a good girl, before talking to you about a dark time of its life.

In June 2011, the Vancouver Canucks, were competing in the finals of the Stanley Cup, the highest level competition of ice hockey in North America. After six games against the Boston Bruins, they were tied : each team had won three games. The seventh was then the most important, the decisive game. The worst scenario for the Canucks happened : they lost the game 0 to 4 and missed the cup just as they did in 1994 and 1982 (dear hockey fans, you’re invited to follow this link for more statistics).

Hockey can be considered as a religion in Vancouver, and every game night, thousands of people wearing white and blue shirts with the orca in the front, invade either the stadium or the downtown bars to cheer for their team. But the Canucks’ supporters are not much appreciated among the big community of hockey fans, because a little number of them have the reputation of losing their temper when their team loses. That is exactly what happened after the Vancouver Canucks lost the final on June 15th, 2011. But in a dimension that nobody had imagined. > Click HERE to watch the video <

Angry fans started rioting all over the city center, cars were set on fire, shop windows were destroyed, people were hurt. In a few minutes, the city became what could be called a war zone. The police officers tried to do what they could to stop the violence, but the influence of anger and alcohol had for consequence that the rioters were completely out of control.

Vancouver on fire during the riots © Andrea Forrer

The day after, Vancouver looked like a battlefield that had seen many horrors. In order to be able to move forward after these dark hours, the residents of Vancouver decided to gather their forces and a big movement of solidarity was set up : some people were picking up the trash on the streets while the shop windows that had been destroyed were temporarily replaced by wooden boards.

The Vancouver Police Department, that had no intention to let the rioters continue their lives without punishment, imagined a new solution to find them. They created a website where they put the photos of the troublemakers, and included the citizens of Vancouver in the investigation, by asking them to help them identify the suspects. According to the statistics of the website, 1958 tips were given to the police through the Internet.

But the police was not the only one using social media to try to convict the rioters. Indeed, a Facebook group* was set up and even private people seeking for justice were working on it at home, with videos in which they encouraged people to “name the morons” they saw on their screen :

After acting in order to erase the bad memories from the streets of Vancouver by cleaning them up, the citizens started to write some words on the wooden boards that were momentarily replacing the shop windows : apologies, messages of love addressed to the Canucks, to the city of Vancouver, or simply to other people. Because this is how you act when you feel like you are part of this community. This is the true soul of Vancouver. This is the beauty of Canada.

Student healing Vancouver’s injuries © Keerati Ruenpanich

A famous drugstore says THANKS to the population © Andrea Forrer

Last week, the news came to our ears – through the Canadian media’s websites and Twitter accounts – that six more people had been charged in the case of the Stanley Cup’s riots. This is what happens when you hurt Vancouver. And that’s why I call it good news.

Fresh news : 6 more people charged

*check June 2011

Cloé Bernier

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