Saturday, June 18, 2011

Vancouver, In the Aftermath

When the sun rose after the riot, it was like Vancouver was in a daze, stumbling about and trying to figure out if that had really just all happened. Not only did a handful of hooligans smash up downtown, but everyone else knew about it, with coverage from the United States to Europe and the Middle East to Australia. There went all the goodwill and good reputation generated by the 2010 Winter Olympics, people worried, smashed by a handful of hooligan rioters like so much glass.

When the sun rose, though, it didn't rise on smoking rubble; it rose on Vancouver. Only hours after the riot, volunteers were already hard at work, cleaning up the wreckage alongside city crews. Wooden boards went up over the shattered windows, and messages of love and pride and respect multiplied like they had lives of their own. Soon, very soon, the evidence of the riot will be gone from downtown - the physical evidence, at least. As in Toronto, the cultural impact of the riot will endure for a long time.

But walking through this aftermath really underscored the differences in perspective between Vancouver and Toronto. After the G20 meetings last year, it was almost as if the city had crawled out of the bomb shelter on broken glass, and was jumping at the slightest noise; in Vancouver people came together, because they hadn't had any reason to suspect they might be driven apart. In Toronto, there were kettlings and police beatings and that detention facility on Eastern Avenue; in Vancouver, there was a police car-shaped mass of post-it notes expressing support for the Vancouver Police Department.

In Vancouver, the people assembled to demonstrate that it was still their city, that their spirits wouldn't be broken by the actions of a few. This deserves to be known just as much as the riot itself - but so far, the news coverage I've seen has focused far more on the riot than what happened after. In that perspective, here are some pictures of how Vancouver worked to mend itself in the days after.

Note that I'm making all of these pictures available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Bay's Renovation Sale may, in the end, not have had the most appropriate timing.

Messages of support cover broken windows in the Bay.

A child adds to the messages on the wooden walls at the Bay.

At Georgia and Richards, a Blenz Coffee location totally got its shit fucked up. I did not see this degree of damage anywhere else in the riot zone.

A woman leaves a message of support on the boarded windows of the BMO branch at Georgia and Homer.

Volunteers take a break outside the Vancouver Public Library.

Volunteers clean a sculpture outside the looted London Drugs at Granville and Georgia.

People come together to clean the sidewalk outside the damaged Chapters at Robson and Howe.

By Friday afternoon, so many messages had been left on the Bay's wooden wall that a ladder had become a good investment.

Outside Vancouver City Centre Station, by Friday evening the sidewalk had become another place for people to express themselves.

Personally, I did take a lesson out of all this: it's easy to destroy, but there's something really special about reconstruction, and about Vancouver too.

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