Thursday, June 16, 2011

A couple of lies about Riot 2011

(Slightly edited to add an observation that wasn't clear to me at the time of writing this, borrowing a wee bit from comments by Dan Kibke and Giorgio Magnanensi).

The denial begins even as the TV is capturing the riots live: "this is the action of a few hooligans" (that from Mayor Gregor Roberston). Looks like a bloody lot of hooligans to me, thanks; in fact, it looks like nothin' so much as the Granville Street Entertainment District cranked up a few notches. It's not too much different qualitatively from your average Friday night on that street, far as I can see - it's just writ a lot bigger: in busting punk clubs and art spaces outside "The Zone," while providing a free pass to those INSIDE it - or in reducing arts funding and cutting back on education and community-building to emphasize giant sports spectacles - the city has been moving INEVITABLY towards the events of last night. The tastes, values and impulses of UFC-watchin', bling-sportin', tribal-warfare-loving drunken young barbarians have been catered to, celebrated and rewarded, while the values of those who care for community, creativity, and compassion have been TRAMPLED ON; we are now reaping what we have sown. In past forays through The Zone on weekends, I've seen everything from guys beating the shit out of each other on the sidewalk to drunk girls squatting in business doorways, pissing shamelessly, giggling, panties around their knees: minor-key examples of run-of-the-mill uncivilized Granville savagery, compared to tonight - people don't normally go so far as to set cop cars on fire - but it's all of a piece. The kids leaping around screaming "woo! I'm on TV" as people looted Sears behind them sounded and looked exactly like the average kid you see on that street on any given weekend. What we've seen tonight was not the action of a “few instigating hooligans” – something to be blamed on some comfortably distant other; this is something that has the potential to erupt any time crowds of our young people gather, and we need to not lie to ourselves about that.

"This has nothing to do with hockey." Oh, so it's just a coincidence that the same things happened the last time the Canucks lost, back in '94? I think not. Hockey is a violent, fast sport, practically designed to get your adrenaline up; no other sport is as quickly paced or as bloody (tho’ soccer has its own charming history of accompanying violence). Hockey provides a stripped down, miniaturized, ritualized example of tribal warfare, which lends itself beautifully to the sorts of emotions and actions visible in the crowds tonight during the riot; the crowd, denied satisfaction of victory, took it out on their surroundings. (Tho’ who knows – this might have happened regardless of whether the Canucks won or lost). We deny such things at our peril. Want to teach people who rioted a lesson? Cancel hockey events in Vancouver next year.

"This is disgraceful, shameful, a blot on our reputation." This is a lie only insofar as it is being uttered by media people who spent the whole night filming it, commenting on it, and pretending to analyze it - or TV viewers glued gawking to their TV. They are inaccurately describing their impulses, concealing their motivations and emotions: because it’s not shame that drives them to watch such events unfold, it’s that it’s fascinating. In part because it defies easy processing: our city, overrun by our thuggish, idiot youth, rioting and looting not because they need to, not because it achieves anything, but simply because they can. It's like something out of JG Ballard, raising huge and valid questions – like where the civilizing forces in our society have gone, and what we can do to get them back. Condemn it all you like, but don’t pretend you’re not totally compelled by the spectacle of it, at least not as long as you’re still gawking – it’s like morally condemning the very porn that you’re masturbating to. At least Rob Brown, I think it was, of CTV, was perceptive and honest enough to realize and mention, as he wandered the streets with a camera crew, that the impulse of some people to stick around, to take pictures, to bear witness and not disperse wasn't fundamentally that different from what he himself was doing, that there was at least a smidgen of hypocrisy to repeating over and over “why don’t they just go home” while wandering the same city blocks as the crowd.

But perhaps the people who speak of shame mean something else – because they somehow find some part of themselves represented in the rioting mob, some part that they do not like and wish to distance themselves from? I find NO part of myself represented by this mob. I feel a bit of contempt and disgust, perhaps - but shame is far, far from my door, keeping company with, say, “surprise.”

Tho’ I guess I am a bit shocked at how ill prepared and ineffectual the police seem to have been… Were they truly not aware, after we got off lucky during the Olympics, that this could happen? Denial is ubiquitous...

Oh, and don't worry about the "blot" shite, either: because this could happen in ANY major North American city, now. And everyone knows it, or should. The only difference that I can see between this riot and any other major one I’ve read about in recent years (in Toronto or Seattle, say) is that it seems in Vancouver we only get out to riot for sports events…

And speaking of Toronto, the black-clad, masked looters tonight were likened by some CTV pundit to "black bloc" anarchists in Toronto, because they were wearing black with covered faces. (The VPD has incorporated this into their official version of events). This is ridiculous, a complete misapprehension of what was going on. However one might feel about them, I have absolutely no doubt that black bloc protestors felt their actions justified by some larger point they were trying to make. By contrast, what happened tonight in Vancouver was completely, utterly pointless, motivated by nothing larger than the impulses of the rioters. People were rioting because they could, because they wanted to, because it felt good to them to do so. There was no cause, no purpose, no rationale beyond that: zero.

In the end, I was glad to be miles away, in Maple Ridge, watching it on TV with my Mom. (We caught the start of it around 8pm, then – because a few downtown fires were no big deal – switched to watching a delightful, John Waters-narrated Animal Planet DVD about “Jessica the Hippo.” But around 10pm, we flipped back to the news and were glued for two hours). Mom was particularly upset by images of burning cop cars. “What’s the point of that?” she said, turning to me, a scornful, puzzled look on her face.

I shrugged, offered a theory: “It’s fun!”

“That’s fun?”

“Apparently.”

I wonder what downtown will look like tomorrow morning…

27 comments:

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

In my lifetime there have been four Vacouver riots: the Grey Cup one, the Gastown one and two hockey ones. It is not hockey, it is us.

Your comparison of a typical evening on Granville to last night's fun makes me happy I had my wild days between the Gastown and the first hockey riot.

Great bit of spontaneous writing by the way.

Karen said...

Hey, I generally like your writing and learn a thing or two (other than the sometimes TMI from a few of your back posts but that's just me. By the way, that devil signal thingy you wrote of quite awhile back, I totally got that whenever you did it and thought it odd but it seems you did it to feel superior to those damn Christians and hey, I like to feel superior too.)
I like this piece but I question the knowledge you claim to have from your perch high above the rest of us that people are watching the riots/reading about them/blah blah because they are fascinated as opposed to upset or any other emotion. That may be the case for some but I'm not thinking most. Again, just how I read it, but it comes across to me as arrogant and all-knowing, if that makes sense. I read a whole lot (due to perhaps, not having much of a life but that's a different story) and other than simplistic writing and the ultimately misogynistic (too tired to check the spelling there) chick lit genre, the writing that most turns me off is anything approaching any kind of arrogance. Hence, Christopher Hitchens smart as he may be and now tragically dying of cancer, is almost impossible for me to read.
You've never struck me as arrogant and again, I've always appreciated your smarts. My take on this piece is that I found most of it thought-provoking but you lose me when you seem to make assumptions.
A wee work update: despite not investing, I still seem to be working, albeit less and less each month. Not many students for this time of year and I think by September I'll be using my remaining EI.
Phew. I'm done
- Karen

Allan MacInnis said...

Actually, I meant the stuff about the hypocrisy of crying shame as mostly directed at the MEDIA, as I said in there. CTV broadcasters in particular, while doing a great job generally in documenting the event, were generally caught up in providing an emotional framework for the images, mostly revolving around SHAME. I didn't and don't trust it, for reasons I hope I get somewhere close to above, because I can't do them justice now. Wasn't presuming to say what EVERYONE watching these images was feeling - just crying bullshit on all the media tongue clucking, which was incompatible with their clear fascination. (Tho' the roving commentator on the streets, Rob Brown, as I say, seemed a bit more honest).

But Mr. Hockey, above, is right - this was a very-near spontaneous explosion of reaction to what I'd been seeing... I'm not even sure *I* understand my points, now...

I'm very glad to not be commuting to that job these days, but EI runs out this week, for me. Scraping together my rent and bill payments out of a few writing assignments and odd jobs but I'm kinda screwed... Grateful not to be teaching ESL, tho'... Good luck with your own figurings-out.

(I actually kind of like Christopher Hitchens...).

Dave said...

That's a good question. What did Vancouver look like the next day? Who went out and helped clean up? Were you there?

Allan MacInnis said...

Yeah, I had to work a shift at a bookstore I sometimes fill in at. I couldn't help - I was going from A to B - but I did walk through some of the area that was hit. There were lots of apparent volunteers with brooms and garbage bags, sweeping up glass and picking up garbage; there were city crews all over the place; and LOTS of glass companies, loading up their vehicles with shattered glass, cleaning out the broken frames, and so forth. Even by 9am, when I was passing through, it was looking pretty cleaned-up, though there were still a lot of big, jagged holes in a lot of windows (a lot had already been boarded up, tho'). It was pretty impressive how fast things were happening, actually. A friend tells me that within 24 hours you could barely tell anything had happened.

Allan MacInnis said...

(He also chastises me a little for asserting that riots happen in this city for sports events, while happening in other cities for political reasons -he points out that riots OFTEN happen for sports events in other cities. I was more just bitching that they DON'T happen here for political reasons, but even then, I guess with the Woodsquat Riots - they do).

Anonymous said...

And let's have a look at Maple Ridge resident, highschool student, water-polo star, Nathan Kotylak. With an academic scholarship to the U of Calgary, and Olympic aspirations.
He thought it would be a good idea to torch a police car.

http://blog.deliciousjuice.com/2011/06/16/only-human/

And Jason Li from Richmond, smashing the windows of a BMO.

Jim Chu of the VPD is right. Many of the rioters are from out of town. I think most are from the suburbs.
Spoiled kids who have never been told "NO". Who have never known REAL struggle. Who have no cause, no direction, no conscience, and no remorse ---UNTIL THEY GET CAUGHT. Then it's all, "sniff sniff, I'm sorry. I was drunk."

The social-media shaming many of these kids will get will be a better punishment than anything our limp-wristed legal system will ever dish out. People are taking matters into their own hands. Forwarding photos and links to schools, employers, etc.

Once the digital footprint is made, it's next to impossible to wipe it clean. Sure, time will pass, and the anger over the damage this riot caused will subside. But Google "Nathan Kotylak" .
Sucks to be that guy.

Curomac said...

Well said. I couldn't agree more. A product of what we created / are creating / promoting. Cheers.

Allan MacInnis said...

Well, I'm not sure it's all suburbanites fault, either - I am mistrustful of the impulse to blame somewhere from somewhere else, just because it so obviously COULD be informed by our desire not to blame our own - but I bet there were a hell of a lot more spoiled suburban youth in the crowd than there were anarchists, I'll tellya that.

Fuck, man - anarchists don't even LIKE hockey, for the most part.

Allan MacInnis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

Yes these are hooligans, not anarchists. Incredibly stupid hooligans not only for their actions but for their naivete. I know it's hard to feel sorry for them, but these young men (mostly) are going to pay a high price - following some of the links in these comments, you have to wonder about the irony of the mob facing a virtual mob lynching online. They have thrown away so much for a night of drunken aggro: college, careers, and I am sure for many of them their liberty. Such a stupid waste, such a shame.

bev davies said...

Well, the game was dreadful. I turned it off somewhere through the 3rd period, knowing if we scored I would hear horns and would turn it on. I had received a dreadful email from a 'friend' earlier in the day and I was in a black place.

A friend from Texas Skyped me and I was mood wise; sad, bitter, and low. While Skyping I went to Twitter and saw and entry from the Black Lips, who were in town for the show I was going to at 10:30 pm. The Tweet said they had never seen a car on fire on a street before.

I thought OMFG there is a riot and turned the tv on.
I went from one level in 1 second I was excited, showing my friend CBC coverage. My mood had changed. I was alive, excited and why who knows.
Yes I wanted to go and take photos, and I did not. My son called and said not to go the the Black Lips at the Commodore. He said it was bad on Granville Street. He was watching TV also. I told him they had moved the show to the Rickshaw.

That night the Rickshaw on Hastings felt like a bomb shelter to me. The Black Lips may have done the best show I have ever seen them do. I was trapped inside the photo pit so forget the 3 song crap. I was there with stage divers over my head, air full of beer, St Pee the singer spitting into the air and catching it in his mouth. The entire scene was wild, no riot, music does that, takes a crowd to the edge of chaos. That was one of those amazing shows on an amazing nights in Vancouver.

Colin Durutti said...

Saying that the rioters weren't hockey fans is disingenuous and complete bullshit. (Because sports crowds around the world never fight among themselves, never get drunk and violent, never commit sexual harassment and assaults, never riot, never cause property damage ... riiiiight.)

For the authorities to claim that such a large crowd was led by a handful of provocateurs - that's not exactly complimentary to the 'real' hockey fans. Hundreds of people smashed shit up and thousands did nothing. Hello - THE COPS ARE CALLING YOU STUPID.

This is convenient scapegoating that plays into an agenda of surveillance, paranoia, and harassment of activists in Vancouver and everywhere else.

It's politically offensive because it separates "nice people," "normal people," "good Germans" who can do no wrong - if they do, they're led by subversives. Others. Substitute "anarchist" for "illegal immigrant" or "Black," or "Jew" in the official rhetoric this week and you've got a real fucking problem.

It would be way too easy for fascism to take over here - just look at the footage: NOT the cops, THE CROWD.

Allan MacInnis said...

Absolutely - the scapegoating of activists, which amounts to BLAMING THE PEOPLE WHO DO CARE for the actions of THOSE WHO DON'T. It's offensive.

MediaPoet said...

Thought provoking, thanks.

Anonymous said...

I've come across a few more riots in the Vancouver area over the years. One in North Vancouver, Halloween night, 1966. A couple in the Jericho Beach area (the youth hostel) in 1970. The Rolling Stones concert riot (outside trying to get in) in 1972. And, of course, didn't some mayor have the riot act read back during the 1930s?

Good comments on the night in question. At work (buses), while watching early in the 2nd period, a supervisor said, "you don't think there'll be a riot, do you?" Difficult to know if he was being serious or naive. A half hour later I heard the score was 3-0 and a girl in a Starbucks exclaimed, "oh no, there's going to be a riot, and I live downtown." An hour and a half later a driver at Edmonds Station pulled up beside me and said a full blown riot was going on. There were already four cop cars in the loop, soon to be eight. And Edmonds isn't close to anything.

Buses, from what I saw on the radio, got pulled from downtown and still were being instructed to stay out at 1:15 a.m. It was safer to have a bus sit in the skids rather than go to where the rich people were.

Allan MacInnis said...

An anonymous poster left this comment on another blogpiece; thought I would repeat it here to keep things mostly in one place:

"It's really a shame society makes people so angry. Every time I hear about and see the aftermath of riots I think of how much anger there is in people that they choose to express it during sports events. There is some deep ingrained sadness that all of us seem to have as members of this society, and I believe that sports and other forms of entertainment give people the illusion of unity. But this unity creates rivalry, bettering one unified group over another. And when sports team lose riots happen because people see opposing teams as enemies. It is really too bad that feeling together is not all inclusive in this world."

Anonymous said...

Interesting. OK I admit it, I have been offended by the fact that the media call the rioters fans, I have been offended that the media are saying this is a reaction to the loss of a hockey game. I'm sure it would have happened even with a win. Fans don't take a backpack packed with masks, aerosol cans, and gasoline, molatov cocktails, and a crowbar to watch a hockey game. It is evident that they intended to do something with this stuff. Other than the fist fights, I don't think anger had much to do with it. I think there were a number who went purposely to create havoc. And mob mentality, booze, testosterone, excitement, and yes sadly, fun spread the stupidity through the crowd. Those yahoos were having fun. The venue was irresistible, shit 100,000 people to shock and to watch you roar and strut your stuff! Its a stage for acting out/up, the media, the crowd watching, taking pictures and filming, all that attention fueled the behavior. Ironically, this attention and documenting is what is unmasking these asses. No more anonymity in a mob as in the good old days. By the way, the "apology walls" around the Bay are quite amazing, and there is a VPD car parked in front of Sears covered with notes of appreciation, the sidewalks are covered with chalked positive messages, there are hand made flags strung around the Bay with messages of love - and tonight there are crowds of people reading the messages and talking to each other, musicians playing music and food carts doing business. It felt a lot like the Olympic crowd. I guess there is nothing like a riot to bring people together.

Anonymous said...

Righteous!

William Scott Scherk said...

Good, provocative, from-the-heart piece, Allan. I take your point about 'shame.' I feel a mix of confusion/humility/embarrassment when I report the riot on a Syrian forum -- the gulf between their struggle and the Vancouver one-off is striking.

The more hardline try to use the Vancouver riot to justify harsh repression at home, the midline claim a terrible decadence under awful democracy, and the softliners don't have much to say, since the two events are not really comparable.

I find the most distinquishing note is the aftermath. The post-riot popular forensics, the twenty-page Province report on the bad guys and how we can help get-em, the call to track down and try hooligans -- all this contrasted with the ongoing state violence across Syria . . . I cannot get out of my mind the youth and pointlessness of the Vancouver scene -- no point, no glory, no profit, no advancement, no goal.

Thanks for the provoking thoughts, Allan!

Anonymous said...

Just another comment (I'm up above, the bus driver):

While all this history of Vancouver riots can get as depressing as Bill Buford's book Among the Thugs (1990) here are a couple more: 1965 Halloween, White Rock; and 2002, the cancelled Guns 'n' Roses concert.

And a link to a 2009 story on the "entertainment zone", "a ticking time bomb":

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=daa3bb8a-3bdf-4257-a42c-543410679b3c&k=49258

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately i could foresee the riot. if Vegas posted that bet. it woulda been a sure thing. Gee How to start a riot. corral a hundred thousand or two hundred thousands people into a small area .standing room only with thousands of drunk people. add booze angry youth.all watching a big screen Canadian Stanley cup final hockey game. imagine if they were playing T.O.or MTL...anyways .game is over. add another 40 000 from bars and the game. now close two bridges shutdown transit and have people try to find a way out while havein tear gas blasted at them.whats new... it happened before apec. 94 cup run etc .well the city prior to the big game was boasting how much money the cup run had brought in/ Vancouver has again got world news coverage..coverage Vancouver could only dream off since the Olympics for days and i believe Vancouver will milk this for all its worth.sell Vancouver any way they can. cash for chaos.cash from chaos.get your i survived the riot tee shirt get back on the map vancouver oh and get those rioters for sure charge em with being stoopid.omgawd how stoopid ..the world was watching dontcha know..anyhoo i went downtown for cleanup i paid 6 bucks to park for an hour and a half downtown and another 10 bucks to park in Stanley park. the city is loaded IF NOT well there always seems to be money they can find..um who's plan was it to put outdoors tv screens up in the city core anyways ...it sucks that it happened.it sucks for the people.of Vancouver and those without ins big time. but we are a big city now and if the city wants to hold big events. like a game 7 Stanley cup with out door T.V screens or a fireworks contest with pre pay seating ? and hundreds of thousands of people and drunks then they r going to have to pay for it.. come up with a real plan with city crews. police.news. transit and i am sure now .many many volunteers and Joe public who would want to help out big time. .an orderly staffed safe exit route would be a good start.if not it will happen again no doubt. i am sure most wanted to go home after they took there pictures.. yep bad news is a big story it sells.. the media machine took off .everyone is suspect everyone is a reporter.OK so l wasn't there i am old and wise now.i even drive in the slow lanes. i like it.I did go downtown to help clean up. when i got there i could smell a faint wisp of after burn .hmm good band name.I start at the penthouse and head over to Granville st entertainment area and make my way down to the bay .awwwww nooooo it was all cleaned up .done by10 am i didn't even take a pic i thought about taken a pic of the constant flow of people taken pics of a broken window but i couldn't be bothered it wasn't news worthy it was silly so i went to the beach. it was beautiful just like the rest of Vancouver.this is my home i don't care what other people say about Vancouver i love the place and would prefer to keep it a secret and i will always feel sorry for the youth who took part in it..if they only new the outcome it will bring them ..they r screwed.as are the looters. if i was 17 or in my 20s would i have been there semi drunk.screaming fuck authority ah of coarse not .but how bout you ..

Peace Out

giorgio magnanensi said...

While the cheerfulness (some sort of cheerfulness I personally don't really know)
of it doesn't surprise me, my reaction is not totally indifferent.
I actually feel outraged, but not with the people who led the big sabbath, but for what that collective energy could really mean. And I'm too still trying to understand.
The anarchic theory is too simplistic, and as far as I can tell from the information
we have so far, it is actually very weak. Instigators are what they are but the fuel
reaction of thousands shows a very receptive ground for any kind of that instigation.
Now, I might well be a very old fashioned man, but I feel really pretty upset
and can't really detach myself from that feeling. It might have to do with
memories of burning cars and books in Bologna 1977, when I was 17
and for the first time I saw police shooting at people (read students);
surely a different kind of riot but no matter where you stand, violence gets you
like a virus, and it's also a very feral part of humanity in distress.
We don't really have an answer, I don't. I too would like to know how, and why,
I really would like to find some answers to this one. It could just be
that we are joining a global status, trend... ? The transcendental sport? (lots of loops again here...)
A fashion statement of sabbathical nature? We know people believed witches were flying on a broom or a stick,
see now how many are ready to fly for and with a similar stick. But still no, please, no witch-hunts.
Riots have been happening on a daily rate for a long time on the planet, many and many kinds
and in the Far West, the western part of the west... we might just be picking up the waves.
Apologies if this sounds sarcastic, or cynic at all, I have no intention to express any superior understanding,
I'm actually experiencing a great sense of frustration and a desire to find a productive way
to keep my freedom alive, at least to not feel that something is gradually taking it away in small pieces.
To avoid ranting with myself too much and offering/attempting a reaction.
Another friend was saying that the greatest thing we can do is to create. I'm with you, I have always been with you.
Now though for what? and for who? stay often with me as a sort of oppressive question.
giorgio

Allan MacInnis said...

(PART ONE OF TWO):
I don’t know how I feel about what happened, myself. There’s anger in me, but also a sort of grim satisfaction, now, settling in – because Vancouver has now seen the same sort of policymaking that thrust the Olympics down our throats come round and bite it on the ass; and it wasn’t the “anarchists” that did it – since their attempts to start trouble in 2010 were pretty pathetic and easily contained; no, the very people who the city has been laying out a red carpet for, these last years, have made the anarchists’ point FOR them. There's a satisfying irony to that, even if it sounds smug of me to say it.

Vancouver has been given an immense opportunity for introspection, soul-searching, and rethinking policy. It may not happen – we’re wasteful, lazy , distractable people – but there’s lots of positive stuff that could still come out of these riots, if we do the work required. Some obvious conclusions seem to me that:

Without a huge apparatus of crowd management and dispersal, you cannot responsibly or safely invite thousands of people into the downtown core for sports events, period. You might get lucky (which is what seems to have happened during the Olympics), but you might not (riot 2011). Since the city has proven that it cannot handle it in the latter instance, it needs to recalibrate. I don’t like our No Fun City image either, but clearly it is a bad idea to overcompensate to such an extent that riots can take place.

I’m not sure the mechanics of it, but policymakers have obviously had a hand in crafting this thing known as the Granville Entertainment District, or Zone, or whatever the hell the barricades say. It is built around a particular concept of “fun” – which seems to mean well-to-do 20somethings clubbing, watching UFC, getting drunk, doing cocaine in the bathrooms, dancing to blaring techno, drunkenly wandering the streets going “Woo.” (the last is the only item on the list that I have witnessed with my own eyes, the rest are presumed). The city, on the weekend, changes several blocks of a once pleasant, peaceful, and tree-lined street into a beacon for party animals from the suburbs, who now have lots of experience coming into the city to cut loose; doubtlessly many such youth accounted for a goodly proportion of the rioters. Buses are rerouted to cater to the imperatives of this crowd. Streets are blocked to traffic. Barricades are put up, special rules apply, and private security have been hired to police them (tho’ how active they are post-Olympics I do not know). Locals who find the noise and drunken spectacle distasteful have no choice but to stay away, to surrender the strip to the thugs (I lived only a few blocks from it for years, so I know whereof I speak).The rules are changed in the name of compensating for said “no fun” image –and these kids are thus given the clear message that they are special and their need to cut loose comes ahead of the interests of the city. (To be continued...).

Allan MacInnis said...

PART TWO OF TWO...
The wisdom of this policy needs to be questioned. This notion of fun and entertainment is not too many steps from the idea of setting a police car on fire and looting. Maybe a different notion of fun should be invested in by the city?

While catering to this uncivilized, noisy, party-hardy crew on Granville, the city has also done something else –it has ignored or made life difficult for the more responsible, community-minded, arts-oriented youth struggling on the margins. It has forced various arts clubs, punk venues, and such to go underground or to shut down. The list of venue closures, for various reasons, is getting pretty long, and I’ve forgotten the specifics of why some aren’t around – the Emergency Room, the Sweatshop – but the newest on the block is the Red Gate, a gallery and performance space that has been functioning for years on the margins without incident. Not granting the Rickshaw a liquor license would be another blow. Letting wendythirteen sit sidelined on the margins, unable to open her own venue since the Cobalt was taken from her, has further damaged the scene. I don’t even know where Fake Jazz Wednesdays take place anymore, things have gotten so fragmented; we HAD an internationally-recognized DIY underground arts scene in Vancouver, but I’m not sure we still do. The city could do more to encourage and support these arts-minded youth - or to support community-minded arts-and-education organizations like the Safe Amplification Site or the Purple Thistle. The kids who make up and use these institutions are generally far more responsible and community minded than the rioters on Granville, far better at policing themselves, far more interested in putting back IN to the community; they should be recognized and rewarded. These kids have got a pretty good perspective on the Granville crew, too – regarding them for the most part as spoiled, ignorant thugs, whether suburban-or-other… They couldn’t be more different. The city should be rewarding real creativity and community spirit, rather than the needs and impulses of party animals. You get what you pay for, and for our city, this means rioting spoiled suburbanites in the downtown core and alienated artsy kids struggling to keep their sense of community alive on the margins; is that what we really want?

The general calculus of "arts funding bad, sports events good" might require some rethinking, too.

In making “inviting the rich to drink and party” less of an imperative for public planning, some of the REAL problems of Vancouver could be addressed, too - like the blocks and blocks of dispossessed people accordioned into a smaller and smaller space as the DTES gentrifies.

Here’s hoping that some post-riot soulsearching leads us in the right direction (and not to a general crackdown).

Allan MacInnis said...

A few comments to address what people have said:

To the bus driver, above – thanks for the link to the article on the Granville Entertainment District, it was bang-on. By the by, there was actually a book published more recently than 1990 about the history of Vancouver riots, called Reading the Riot Act – it sounds like it might be up your alley!

http://www.amazon.ca/Reading-Riot-Act-History-Vancouver/dp/1895636671

To the person who signed “peace out” – your language is familiar; do I know you? I like imagining that I do. I like this piece of writing a lot, thanks for putting it up.

Giorgio – not sure whose cheerfulness you refer to; *I’m* not cheerful about what happened, I’m angry and a bit smug (see above). But indeed - the amount of “collective energy” wasted on this riot is bizarre to contemplate. Our society has become so fragmented and fucked-up that rather than INVESTING OUR ENERGIES in something positive and creative, some sort of unified vision for the betterment of our community, we have vast reservoirs untapped and unused that can spew out on the city in this useless, destructive way… It’s a fascinating and horrible perspective to look at this through, so thanks.

Re: witch hunts, the city is going to be very EAGER to apportion blame for these riots, it seems to me, on anyone besides themselves…

But I should also endeavour to avoid ranting with myself too much, thanks…

Giorgio Magnanensi said...

the "glowing" smiles of the cheerful crowd attending the riot's multiple events....
g