Vice Guide to Vancouver

riot Vice Guide to Vancouver

Many years ago I helped on the Vice Guide to Vancouver. In wake of this year’s Stanley Cup Riot, Vice republished an article I wrote the History of Riots in Vancouver on their site.

At any given moment a riot can break out in Vancouver. Michael Barnholden wrote a 112-page book about it recently called Reading the Riot Act, but like anyone who’s spent too much time in school, he keeps trying to explain everything in terms of class conflict. Yeah, there’s a big gap between the rich and poor, but this is no different than in any other city. Besides, all our poor people are too strung out on heroin to wipe their own asses, much less huck a rock at the cops. You might think it’s because we’re so multicultural and we have a lot of pissed-off visible minorities. But we don’t and, honestly, we’re really not that multicultural. In fact, Vancouver doesn’t have any black people. And it’s not that we’re on the “Left Coast” either, because the ridiculously high rent keeps all the real troublemakers and subversive artists far away from Vancouver. No, most of the time riots simply happen as the result of drunken stupidity. There’s no predicting it. It just happens, so be prepared. Here are some highlights from Vancouver’s proud history of rioting.

Gastown Pot Riot of 1971
A couple of hippie journalists were unhappy that their buds were getting harshed by the man for possessing marijuana, so they organized a smoke-in and promoted it in this hippie rag they all worked at. Included in the ad were instructions on what to do if the cops showed up – destroy the evidence, take down badge numbers, that sort of thing. Two thousand people showed up to get stoned, bang on drums, and smell bad. Then a bunch of cops raced in on horses and started beating people over the head with batons. Pot is great for a lot of things: Driving, falling asleep, “getting” Pink Floyd; but it won’t enhance your abilities in a fight. The stoners fought back and had their asses handed to them. Rocks were thrown, skulls got busted, and, conveniently enough, none of the police happened to be wearing badges that night as they detained over 50 people. Sadly, these kind of gatherings still go on every week. While this was cool back in the early 70s, we’re all kind of over weed now and wish the police would still ride in and kick the crap out of these fucking hippies. You can smoke pot freely in Vancouver and the hippie rag that promoted the smoke-in generates more advertising dollars than all the other papers in Vancouver combined.

The Stanley Cup Riot of 1994
The Canucks are having an epic playoff run and nightly parties are happening on Robson Street after each victory. It’s the night of game seven, the entire city has been drinking for hours and is ready to celebrate. Only the Canucks lose to the New York Rangers and fuck up a golden opportunity to bring the Stanley Cup back home to Canada. Dejected, everyone decides to congregate on Robson Street anyway. A little glass gets broken, then suddenly all hell breaks loose. Rioters tear apart the shopping district and loot all the stores. Police move in with full riot gear and tear gas to try and disperse the angry hockey fans. This doesn’t do much because everyone is piss-drunk and ready to fight for the cause. The cause being: “We lost a hockey game and we’re upset.” Of the 70,000 people in the downtown core, 200 were injured, 50 were arrested, and one person was killed when police shot him with a rubber bullet. Pretty good odds if you’re a rioter.

APEC Riot of 1997
The University of British Columbia is the most overrated post-secondary institution in Canada, but they have a great swimming pool and it was the scene of an epic riot. The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was one of those gatherings where the leaders of the world’s good countries gather behind closed doors to discuss the fates of those countries you can’t find on a map. Troublemakers were preemptively arrested and a gigantic perimeter was set up to keep all the riff-raff away. Rather than take the hint that they weren’t exactly welcome, protesters stormed the fences and tried to rip them down. Forty-nine were arrested and a whole bunch more got pepper-sprayed, including members of the local media, which is never a good idea. There was a big public inquiry afterward that amounted to nothing more than a massive waste of taxpayers’ money, life in the Third World is still shitty, and most of the people involved in the protest now work at anarchist bookstores, still live in their parents’ basement, and enjoy the music of Michael Franti.

Guns N’ Roses Riot of 2002
This was our most recent riot and probably the one with the best rationale. Guns N’ fucking Roses are back together and in town at last. Then, ten minutes before the doors are supposed to open, it’s announced that the show is canceled because Axl can’t make it. Fans, remembering the cancelled GN’R show in 1992, use barricades, rocks, and garbage cans to smash $100,000 worth of glass at General Motors Place. Police move in with riot gear and tear gas, around 20 people are arrested, and a cop knocks all the teeth out of some innocent bystander. Local papers make bad Appetite for Destruction puns and refer to the band as Guns AND Roses, which is just lame. Guns N’ Roses never make up for the cancelled concert.