The violence and destruction in downtown Vancouver Wednesday night involved triple the number of people that participated in the riot following the Canucks’ 1994 Stanley Cup loss, according to Vancouver police chief Jim Chu.
But Chu, who blamed the majority of the mayhem on “criminals, anarchists and thugs,” said officers were able to bring the situation under control in three hours, half the time it took them in 1994.
“There was a group of people that were criminals and anarchists that were bent on causing that destruction,” he told reporters at a news conference today (June 16).
“They came prepared – they had incendiary devices, they had weapons, they had a plan, they had objectives.”
Chu said some rioters came armed with masks, goggles, gasoline and fire extinguishers.
The chaos that erupted at about 8 p.m. following the Canucks' 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins resulted in fifteen burned cars, including two police cars, and extensive property damage and looting.
Police have not released information yet on the number of injuries, but assistant fire chief Wade Pierlot said there were 387 incidents in the city last night, which consisted mainly of fire and nuisance calls.
One man is in critical condition after falling from the Georgia Viaduct. Witnesses indicated he was not pushed but was trying to jump from one part of the viaduct to another, according to Chu.
“We are looking into his background, but it does not look like it was an incident that involved foul play, it involved reckless behaviour,” he said.
Nine police officers were injured, including one officer who required 14 stitches after he was hit in the head with a brick after trying to stop looters at a sporting goods shop. Another officer received a concussion after being hit in the head below his helmet, while some officers suffered human bites.
Pierlot said some fire inspectors on the street were physically accosted. Other fire and rescue officers had difficulty accessing the fires.
“The angry crowd’s something that we’re not exposed to very often ”¦the way of actually being treated was new to many of us, so it was a new experience,” said Pierlot. “We also had rocks and bottles thrown at us in our trucks.”
Chu maintained police had been preparing for a similar scenario to the riots that erupted in 1994.
He defended the police department's approach in quelling the chaos, noting the size of the crowd initially made it difficult for officers to deal with it effectively. He said police quickly shifted from a "meet and greet" approach to one of crowd dispersal and safety.
"Our members temporarily left hot spots so they could regroup in larger units to have sufficient members to safely encourage the crowd to disperse and to take assertive action when they wouldn’t," he said.
Chu said there close to 100 arrests Wednesday night, and police intend to make many more.
As of this morning, police have received 120 tips on their tip line, and police are asking members of the public to send them their photos and videos of the riots.
“We are fully committed to tracking down these criminals, and arresting them for their crimes,” he said.
The police chief recognized the people in the crowd who showed “humanity, integrity and courage”.
He said when the riot broke out at one of the outdoor Stanley Cup viewing sites, a group of citizens linked arms to form a barrier so police could rescue an injured person lying on the ground.
Chu said every aspect of last night’s events will be examined over the coming weeks and months.
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