The photographs I didn’t want to see

Even though the team was loosing, the mood on the streets a few blocks away from the screens was very nice

Almost a year has passed since this event which was supposed to be the Stanley Cup Final 2011 in Vancouver  and became widely known as Vancouver Riot 2011. I was there among  the 155,000 people. I am no Canucks fan, I went there to take some photographs for some project and most of all to witness and share the joy of the Vancouverites. I have been in the city for one of the other final series games when 70,000 people were in the streets celebrating. It was an amazing and very positive experience.

Let me go back even more in time and tell you what this city means to me. I came to Vancouver in December 2010 and surprisingly I felt “connected” unlike ever before outside of my home city. I have never felt “at home” anywhere other than Moscow where I was born and lived most of childhood and adolescence. I never felt being “part of it” anywhere outside of Russia. It was something like what you feel when you go traveling on vacation. It has been like this even when I lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota for 8 years.

So back to that day of June 15, 2011. I was taking  photographs at various locations during the game. The crowd was peaceful. By the time 3rd period started I have drifted in the very center of the crowd, at the intersection where you could see both giant screens. The game was not exciting and I have decided to leave (as I have learned later a few minutes before the riot has started). Only late at night have I learned about what happened after I have left. I felt so emotionally devastated I was not able to sleep for several nights and even now watching the footage from the riot I feel so much pain.

The investigation is still ongoing and more people are being charged every month. The public search for suspects also continues.

During the game I was shooting some heavily expired B&W film with my Zenit-19 with a Zenitar M 1.7/50 lens and the Leica M3 with a Jupiter-3 lens. I have left the film unprocessed till last week when I have finally decided to do it. Here are these photographs with my comments.

I was shocked when I have learned the news of a riot. I just couldn’t believe it. I felt sorry for this beautiful city and the good people who call it home. I couldn’t sleep and I was trying to grasp how could it happen in Vancouver.

Police was blaming some anarchists dedicated to causing trouble. Though the video footage does not confirm it. You can see what the mob mentality can do to otherwise “normal” people. I guess most people in the crowd thought it was cool to set a car on fire and show disobedience. I’m sure the next day the vast majority who took part in the riot felt ashamed. Maybe some of them came the next morning for the clean-up. I really hope so. Nevertheless there were a few who did not go along with the mob. A few who faced the mob and tried to stand the ground and protect their city. I admire these people. The most painful images to watch is the ones where the mob attacks them. I guess this is the moment when people in the mob lose all humanity and this is why it is so upsetting.

IMHO Police did a good job dealing with the riot, putting peoples safety first and not opting for heavy action. However police is still responsible for what have happened. This riot is yet another example what can happen to otherwise normal citizens under certain circumstances. Police clearly was not ready and a few crucial mistakes have been made. I really hope Vancouver will make the right conclusions and the city will be able to host a big event like this again and police will be as nice as they were all along the Final series. It is a pity it has happened in Vancouver, though truth is it can happen anywhere, maybe in some places with higher probability than in other ones.

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