“Vancouver Canucks fans riot in the streets after Stanley Cup loss” screamed the headlines, as a mob of fans smashed and burned cars and looted stores. To myself and others who had recently been in Vancouver for the TBEX conference of Travel Bloggers, this was quite a shock. After all, we had all witnessed the grand celebration in the streets of downtown Vancouver when Canucks beat the Boston Bruins in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup.
This was a celebration unlike anything else I have ever witnessed. As a sea of fans poured out of bars and onto Granville Street, which serves as the downtown entertainment district, people were suddenly no longer strangers. Endless high fives went around as people hugged each other. Crowds cheered wildly whenever a large Canucks flag went by as those horns made famous in the 2010 South Africa World Cup were blared endlessly till the early hours of the morning. The masses surrounded a baby who sat on his father’s shoulders wearing a Canucks jersey and bearing a ubiquitous “Go Canucks Go” sign. It was so much that I simply had to film the experience in a video that you can check out below.
Now juxtapose that scene with a very different one a mere 5 nights later after Game 7. This was a scene I was glad to have missed as I was in the midst of a road trip on Vancouver Island with fellow bloggers Skinny Backpacker and What’s Dave Doing?, though several other bloggers from the conference were caught in the midst of it and even reported being tear gassed by police attempting to restore order (Gareth from Tourist 2 Townie captured a stellar video of the Vancouver riots). As the frightening images appeared on my Twitter stream of looters and fires burning on the streets, I couldn’t help but think back to the “Red Shirts” protests in Bangkok last year. This wasn’t the Vancouver I’d gotten to know and love over the previous week but an urban war zone!
Two days after the riots that made worldwide news I was back in Vancouver and found a city at peace. Here was a story that did not make worldwide news. The day after the riots, thousands of Vancouverites came together to help clean up their city and show the world that they are so much better than a few dozen wasted troublemakers. The Hudson Bay department store, which was viciously looted by rioters, had nearly every window boarded. But those boards were completely covered by incredibly moving messages from well wishers; the people of this fine city who helped to clean up the mess.
It was a beautiful scene filled with beautiful messages. Even on Saturday, three days after the riots, people gathered at the Hudson Bay armed with Sharpies to inscribe their own thoughts onto this important symbol of a city united. People taped up signs, wrote emotional messages and left flowers. Signs dotted streetlights on Granville Street saying “Thank you Vancouver for Helping! –City of Vancouver.” Even the Hudson Bay Company hosted a free pancake breakfast to thank everyone for all their help in moving past this dark spot on the city’s history.
To me, this was an incredibly moving experience. This is a story that should be told. A city rejects the violence that occurred on its streets and demonstrates that those acts of violence were done by such a tiny fraction of people. And the city comes together to rebuild as a community. That should be the headline because human kind coming together for a common good is simply beautiful.