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B.C. Premier promises to expose rioters to public gaze

Premier Christy Clark signs a message of support on a board used to cover up a broken widow in Vancouver June 16, 2011.

JOHN LEHMANN/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

B.C. Premier Christy Clark has asked spectators who took videos and photos of the looting, vandalism and violence to let the police see what they have.

"I'd like to make this call out to everybody who may have some evidence for police," Ms. Clark told reporters Thursday before walking through the streets with boarded-up storefronts and burnt out vehicles. "Make sure we see those pictures of the people that incited this."

Ms. Clark also had a message for those who were involved in breaking windows and grabbing merchandise from the stores.

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"If you were a part of this, and I'm speaking to people who may have been responsible last night, I promise you this. You won't be able to live in anonymity, you won't be behind your bandana or under your hoodie.

"We are going to do everything we can to make sure the public understands who you were. Your family, your friends, your employer will know you were a part of it. Because this cannot happen in our city. It isn't the kind of city that I want to live in," she said.

Earlier, Vancouver police chief Jim Chu said police believe "criminals, anarchists and thugs," posing as Canucks fans, were responsible for the riot Wednesday evening following the Stanley Cup game.

Chief Chu also had some harsh words for the hundreds of spectators, who stood around and took video of others smashing plate-glass windows of stores and igniting parked cars, including police cars.

Those who watched and those who cheered the rioters were responsible for the chaos, Chief Chu said Thursday.

Dismissing calls for his resignation and criticism of the police response, Chief Chu told reporters that police brought the disruptions under control in half the time that was required during the 1994 post-Stanley Cup final hockey riot although the riot on Wednesday involved more than three times the number of people.

The 1994 riots spanned six hours while this week's was brought under control in three, he said. "There are many Monday morning quarterbacks," he also said.

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With the Vancouver Canucks expected to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in its 40 year history, the city set up a "fanzone" with jumbo screens for crowds to watch the finals. The enclosed area, which was filled to capacity during the game, was on the widest street in the downtown area, Georgia Street, which is adjacent to the downtown's commercial core. Last Friday, a crowd of 100,000 people watched the game and then dispersed without any major incidents.

Tens of thousands of people were milling around in the streets after the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 in the final game of the Stanley Cup. The crowd turned ugly moments after the game ended. A car was turned over and suddenly consumed in flames.

Thick plumes of smoke from numerous fires rose over the downtown area, as darkness closed in, which seemed to embolden the rioters who surrounded burning cars, whooping with delight as flames rose in the air. Pockets of looting, vandalism and violence erupted in several different places.

Police were in the downtown area in large numbers but responded with restraint initially, allowing the first vehicle to burn more than five minutes without intervening. Firefighters fearing for their safety did not respond immediately to reports of fire.

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Chief Chu said police were reluctant to immediately wade into the crowds to deal with troublemakers because it would have been too challenging to separate the instigators from non-instigators.

Also, he said police had to stand back and figure out how to best deal with the situation, deploying officers in a "strategic manner."

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About 100 people were arrested Wednesday night and police anticipate more arrests following further investigations, Chief Chu said. Police have appealed to anyone who has taken video of the riots to share their footage with them.

Fifteen cars were burned, he said. Nine police officers were injured, including an officer that was hit in the head.

At St. Paul's Hospital, more than 100 people were treated, most for tear gas exposure, while a steady stream of ambulances poured into the hospital's emergency bay.

Spokesman Justin Karasick said the hospital had tended to four stabbings, eight head wounds, and four or five lacerations by late evening.

As well, another 30 to 40 people were treated at Vancouver General Hospital. Three were admitted and one is in critical condition, spokeswoman Alyssa Polinsky said Thursday.

City officials reported that 29 businesses in the downtown area had windows smashed. By 7:30 a.m., the windows had been boarded up and secured. By mid-morning, Vancouver city crews had clear away an estimated 90 per cent of the trash, litter and broken glass, says a city bulletin released to the media.

Burnt vehicles, overturned porta-potties and the blanket of trash had been mostly cleared away.

The clean-up was helped by scores of volunteers who came downtown with garbage bags. A Facebook group called "Post Riot Clean-up - Let's help Vancouver" had more than 12,000 members Thursday morning. "Those efforts are truly inspiring and appreciated," the city bulletin stated. "The city is certainly returning to normal very quickly."

Solicitor-General Shirley Bond said the city's ability to hold public celebrations in the future is now in doubt.

"In terms of the future of events like this, I think all of us hope we can live in a city and province where we can celebrate responsibly and respectfully. There is no doubt there will be questions asked about whether that is possible now because of last night," she told reporters.

While the province did shut down liquor stores early in the downtown core, Ms. Bond said alcohol was a factor and although she watched police checking backpacks and confiscating alcohol on the Canada Line, she suggested access will be in the spotlight.

"Alcohol certainly played a role in this and the demographic - it was a very different circumstance that we had during the Olympics. We had a different crowd downtown last night. . . A very young, predominantly male crowd," she said.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city was caught by surprise. "The trouble last night was caused by a smaller group of people who were here to commit crimes and wreak havoc," he said. "These people were here to make trouble and they succeeded in doing that. And we have to make sure we know how to deal with that situation specifically in the future."

Mr. Robertson said the crowd at the fan zone after the hockey game was different than the crowds at the 2010 Olympics. "They had adapted their techniques and managed to wreak a lot more havoc than we ever would have expected," he said.

The riot was an outbreak few expected. Police had emphasized repeatedly in the days leading up to Wednesday night's hockey showdown that they had learned from 1994 and knew how to contain crowds.

But it was close to midnight before Vancouver riot police appeared to bring the rampaging chaos in the streets under some form of control, helped by reinforcements rushed in from suburban police forces.

They used horses, dogs, riot shields, batons and pepper spray to slowly disperse the crowds and move them away from riot hotspots.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who had earlier hailed the city's Stanley Cup crowd experience as unprecedented in North America, said he had "never been as disappointed and outraged."

"From what we saw tonight, it is clear there was a group of people intent on instigating violence and breaking the law. As the night progressed, we saw other people either encouraging them or joining in – a sight that I know disgusted myself and millions of people across our country," he said.

In some locations, people appalled by the violence tried to talk sense to the rioters, with only marginal success.

Police and bystanders were pelted with bottles, stones, projectiles and firecrackers at times.

Firefighters were loathe to respond to the numerous calls of fires, out of concern for their own safety, with police busy trying to quell crowds elsewhere. Cars were left to burn on their own.

"It's so sad to see this happen again. This is not Vancouver," said Larissa VanDam, standing with her family on the corner of Georgia and Hamilton. "This is a real black eye on our city. We saw this happen in 1994 and I was so, so hoping it wouldn't happen again."

At Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the performance of Broadway hit Wicked continued despite the riot. The city-owned-and-run theatre is right in the area where the rioting first broke out. The first indication that something was wrong came at the beginning of intermission, when the stage manager announced over the public address system that due to the situation outside, the audience was to remain in the building and not go out onto the balconies.

The first indication that something was wrong came at the beginning of intermission, when the stage manager announced over the public address system that due to the situation outside, the audience was to remain in the building and not go out onto the balconies.

"Everyone just froze," said Heather Bourke, who was at the show with her husband. "Then everyone went to the windows and stared out. It was unbelievable. Right in front of us: cars on fire, people being beaten up all around us, every direction you looked - smoke."

When the performance resumed the cast did an excellent job of staying focused, Ms. Bourke said. "The actors were incredible; they didn't miss a beat. People were still laughing and clapping and really enjoying it. It was surprising."

In the emptied atrium of Vancouver's main library, Myles Baerg sat with his head bandaged. The 17-year-old from Chilliwack said he was hit in the head with a rock thrown by a bystander after it bounced off a window at the library.

"It seemed calm. A couple of fireworks went off. I heard a crack above me. I looked up and saw a rock and it hit me," he said.

"It's just hockey fans. I figured something like this would happen if we won or lost," said Mr. Baerg, sporting a No. 33 Canucks jersey.

"It's terrible," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said, shaking his head. "This city and province has a lot to be proud of, the team we have and the guys we have in here. It's too bad."

NBA star Steve Nash, from nearby Victoria and the brother-in-law of Canucks forward Manny Malhotra, sent a Twitter message imploring the fans to stop the violence. "We're a great city and have a lot of class. Our team is great and our championship will come. Soon," Nash wrote.

<iframe src="" scrolling="no" height="650px" width="460px" frameBorder ="0" allowTransparency="true" ><a href="" >Stanley Cup final -Game 7</a></iframe>

With reports from Wendy Stueck, Sunny Dhillon, Rod Mickleburgh, Jill Mahoney, Ian Bailey, Mark Hume, Vivian Luk and Marsha Lederman and The Associated Press

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