What role did SkyTrain play in helping to fuel Robertson's Riot?
As I wrote here earlier, the signs of trouble were everywhere in the hours leading up to the riot. In fact, when the VPD asked that liquor sales be restricted effective Game 5, someone should have moved the Fan Zone operation to DEFCON 4. Obviously that didn't happen.
By all accounts the Translink police appeared out of the loop when it came to securing the city leading up to Game 7. What else could explain why so many drunken rowdy young men were pouring into the downtown as early as noon, but the VPD said they had no indication of trouble brewing?
In addition, a review of Twitter shows that social media was a bit of the canary in a coal mine. While the VPD were busy tweeting out information, they didn’t appear to be reading the numerous messages being distributed regarding a possible riot. Clearly, these messages should have been better monitored.
I’ve heard anecdotal reports that almost every establishment (pubs/restaurants) downtown was packed solid the day of Game 7. If so, exactly where were all those 150,000 people the Mayor invited downtown going to go after the final buzzer rang out?
Furthermore, if all the liquor establishments were serving customers from mid-day, one can only imagine how much alcohol was flowing through the bodies of those patrons by the time the Canucks season was over.
I’ve also heard reports that suburban liquor stores were selling up to twice the amount of mickeys (small size liquor bottles) in the hours leading up to Game 7. These smaller bottles are harder to detect in a back pack and can pack a punch once they’re poured into a slurpee.
If we’re going to head into another Game 7 next spring, we need to seriously look at the availability of alcohol in the downtown core. In addition, I think it would have been prudent to restrict all liquids and backpacks heading into the CBC Fan Zone.
To ensure everyone had enough to drink, perhaps Metro Vancouver could have set up their new portable water fountain on the perimeter of the fan zone. This would have provided enough water to keep everyone hydrated and helped to ensure that liquor didn’t make its way into the venue.
The image of that first burning vehicle outside the Canada Post office will remain embedded into the minds of many Vancouverites for years to come. The obvious question is why were vehicles allowed to be in the CBC Fan Zone in the first place?
It’s clear that not enough thought was given to restricting parking in and around the fan zone. The City Engineering department should have had tow trucks on standby to remove any vehicles parked at least several blocks around the venue. This may have seemed oppressive, but it clearly would have removed some of the initial trigger points where the largest group of people were congregated.
Given the fact the Mayor invited 150,000 people in a confined space downtown, it’s hard to imagine the City getting away without installing dozens of porta potties. Unfortunately, within minutes after the mayhem started, they became a big part of the problem. I’m not sure if there is an easy solution to this one, other than setting up several smaller viewing sites throughout the city.
In the days leading up to Game 7, the media also appeared to be caught up in the excitement leading to a possible Stanley Cup Victory. Several news stations chose to broadcast their newscasts live from Georgia Street while the CBC actually negotiated a special deal with the City to actually sponsor the Mayor's fan zone.
Unfortunately, there was little information conveyed to the public about the other smaller venues which had been established throughout the region. The media promotion only seemed to help make the crowds progressively larger each evening.
Once again, the 1994 report outlined how a more pro-active and coordinated approach between the local media and the City of Vancouver could have helped get out the right message to the public. The last-minute coordination of this outdoor fan zone simply didn’t provide for enough time to develop this type of communication strategy.
Overall, there are many factors that led to Robertson’s Riot. During our three-part series we’ve only touched upon a few that need to be addressed by the Furlong/Keefe independent review. Let’s hope these and many other issues are factored into their final report.