The term riot is often used in tandem with events like protests, rallies or marches. We think of people with common goals and/or grievances coming together to have their opinions and voices heard. Common themes include injustice, freedom and human rights. We can watch riots on the news on a near daily basis. Egypt is rioting for the end of an autocratic government, Syria is protesting the dictatorship of their President, and Greece is rioting for economic reform. These protests often begin with peaceful intentions but can lead to emotional flare-ups and violent outbursts. This moment is when a rally becomes a riot. Those who engage in such behaviours like acting out towards law enforcement, or damaging personal or public property can be considered deviant. These so called-deviants are going against the natural social order of things and disrupting society. Sometimes such deviant acts are considered malicious or criminal in nature and other times these same acts are considered heroic and for the “greater good” of society. It may become difficult to distinguish what constitutes a deviant act. For example, two people may engage in burning police cars but if one of those people is doing so in protest of civil war, society sees merit in his/her actions. If the second person is burning the police car in an alcohol-fueled rage against the loss of a hockey game, that person is seen as deviant and their actions are seen as criminal.
This paper will focus on the Vancouver riots of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. The main objective will be to take a sociological perspective in regards to crowd behaviour; the deviant act of rioting and the role social media is playing in response to Vancouver riots themselves. On Wednesday, June 15th 2011 in the city of Vancouver, hockey fans turned against the city in response to the 4-0 victory of the Boston Bruins over the Vancouver Canucks. Some 100,000 people crowded the streets of the downtown area to watch the Stanley cup game 7 finals and when the outcome was determined, a few so-called fans took their anger and disappointment out on cars, windows and each other. Damage was estimated at approximately $1.3 million dollars and over 140 people were reported as injured (“A Tale,”2011). In an article by The Vancouver Sun, Vancouver’s police chief Jim Chu was reported saying that the riot was a result of "young men and women disguised as Canucks fans who were actually criminals and anarchists” (Kane, 2011). Although there has been some backlash for how the police handled the riot, the Vancouver Police department had the riot under control within 3 hours of its outbreak. Canada has a long history with respect to riots and hockey. Win or lose, Canadians have found a reason to riot in response to Canada’s national pastime. The Globe and Mail presents a timeline for hockey riots in Canada. Beginning in 1955, when Montreal rioted after Maurice “Rocket” Richard was suspended and unable to play for the rest of the season. Habs fans took to the streets to protest the NHL decision and caused an estimated $100,000 in damage. Of the 8 riots mentioned in the timeline, Montreal was host to 5 of them. In 1994, Vancouver rioted in response to the loss of game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals to the New York Rangers. Approximately $1.1 million dollars in damage, and over 200 injuries were reported. Edmonton has also rioted in the name of hockey, this time for a win. Edmontonians took to the streets of Whyte Avenue in celebration of the western conference win over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The celebration quickly changed its tune as members of the crowd began starting fires and looting from near by businesses. Clearly the relationship between rioting and hockey can be seen as a recurrent theme in Canadian sports history. The Vancouver riots of 2011 are not a new phenomenon. If past behaviour predicts future behaviour, then these riots will probably not be the last (“Hockey riots,” 2011). All riots must be considered as...
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