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The anatomy of a riot

Surrey group analyzes what went wrong in Vancouver.
A forum held at Kwantlen Polytechnic University this week tried to analyze what went wrong the night of the riot June 15 in Vancouver.

The night of the Stanley Cup riot (June 15), it was apparent many people in downtown Vancouver were not there to watch the hockey game, a Vancouver police officer told a crowd at Kwantlen Polytechnic University on Wednesday.

“Twice in my career have I been very, very scared for my well-being, and one of those was the night of the riot,” the officer said.

The mood of the crowd turned ugly quickly and early. Before the first period of the game, people were already kicking windows and smashing bottles, said the officer, who asked that his name not be used for publication.

As the game progressed, things got worse.

“They weren’t even watching the game. They were drinking and looking around for a reason to cause trouble,” he said.

What causes people to engage in riot activity was the purpose of last week’s forum, “Anatomy of a Riot,” held at Kwantlen’s Newton campus.

The forum began with stories from people who were downtown that night.

Heather Atkinson, 24, was huddled in a local pharmacy, waiting out the mob as hundreds of people looted the store.

Atkinson, a loss prevention officer with London Drugs and a criminology student at Kwantlen, told the group of about 200 students she was holed up in the store with seven other loss prevention officers and a dozen staff.

“How could I best describe it? It was literally from a zombie movie,” Atkinson said of the unruly mob.

Dr. Roger Tweed, a professor of psychology at Kwantlen, described some of the things that cause people to behave violently, with the “mother of all variables” being income inequality. Lack of parental supervision, few extra-curricular activities and violence in the home are also contributing factors, he said.

Dr. Diane Naugler, a Kwantlen professor of sociology, said observers played a huge role in egging on the crowd.

The proliferation of cameras and social media, she said, encouraged more people to stay, intensifying the riot.

Cameras and social media legitimized the event as “post-worthy” as people posted it on Twitter and Facebook, she added.

Former Vancouver Olympic boss John Furlong and former Nova Scotia deputy attorney general Doug Keefe have been appointed co-chairs of a review into the Stanley Cup riot.

The review team is to report to the province and city of Vancouver by Aug. 31. It will look at the lessons of the 1994 Stanley Cup riot, and the plans by Vancouver Police to prepare for the 2011 event.

— with files from Tom Fletcher