Lord Stanley’s anarchist scare in Vancouver
Beware of riotous anarchists, protesters, and “left-wing pinkos”! We will corrupt your otherwise law-abiding, middle-class, Olympic-dreaming teenage sons, turning them into a seething mass of chaos.
While the cop cars were still smouldering after the June 15 riot, Premier Christy Clark, police Chief Jim Chu, and Mayor Gregor Robertson trotted out the old bogeyman of anarchism in a clumsy attempt to divert our attention. Having factored in testosterone, binge drinking, media-hype saturation, and the most violent playoffs yet, they concluded that despite the riot of 17 years ago, inviting 100,000 to watch TV together in a downtown pen couldn’t possibly go wrong.
Well, I am one of those left-wing pinkos, but I didn’t do it. Neither did the movement of which I am a part. Sports riots are common enough not to require the modern equivalent of a Red scare as explanation. Some of my anarchist comrades dislike the violence and male aggression of hockey, while some are die-hard Canucks fans. But the act of chasing a puck around a rink does not rank up there with corporate globalization and social injustice in terms of the foes of anarchy.
History has no shortage of political causes involving conflicts with police or property damage—women’s suffrage being just one notable campaign that broke a few windows. But losing the playoffs is not a political cause, and the riot’s human and property targets reflect no political pattern.
Riots sometimes erupt as frustrated explosions from the social margins, like those that raged in L.A. after racist police officers were acquitted of beating Rodney King. But as Facebook is gradually revealing, this was more of a drunken holler from the suburbs than a scream from the margins. Rioters chanted “Burn the books,” called police and each other “faggot”, and assaulted each other and at least one homeless man. Anarchists take action against such violent acts of oppression; they do not perpetrate them.
Many famous and infamous anarchists have enjoyed quaffing the odd pint, but no anarchist shows up drunk to a situation where the riot squad may be around. When we pinkos believe police might crack down on a protest or action, preparations are made. If anarchists had planned this, there would have been street medics ready to treat the injured. People would have been prepared to treat each other for the symptoms of tear-gas and pepper-spray exposure. Legal observers would have been there with cameras and notebooks to observe police conduct. Volunteer lawyers would have been on standby.
Media coverage of the riot shows no people in black bloc attire. Some rioters did try to cover their faces with whatever clothing they had to avoid being seen or gassed, but most of the property damage was done by people whose faces could easily be seen. Some even leered into cameras. Possession of a bandana does not constitute affiliation with an ideology, and a Halloween skull mask is not evidence of an anarchist plot. In an anarchist action, cellphones would have been used for communication and coordination, not for taking Facebook photos—a practice any anarchist worth her Chomsky would scoff at.
The property damage last week was random. I do not know of many pinkos coveting this season’s Coach bag. The windows of the public library, the art gallery, and a bookstore were smashed—hardly targets of circle-A wrath. And anarchists don’t get into fistfights with each other at political actions.
Although I wasn’t downtown last Wednesday night, from all the footage I’ve seen and witnesses I’ve spoken to, this had none of the hallmarks of a planned political action.
In fact, the only anarchist I know to have been at the riot saw what was happening on TV and went there to treat the injured.
Perhaps Mayor Robertson would like to give her a hero’s award.