VANCOUVER – Business owners in downtown Vancouver found shattered glass, looted stores, millions of dollars in damage and losses, but also some hope on Thursday.
The riots of the night before, sparked after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup, were devastating to the city’s core, but dozens of people spontaneously turned up with rubber gloves and garbage bags to help in the cleanup.
On Thursday, glass companies were replacing windows to some businesses while many others remained boarded up as hundreds of Vancouverites joined city crews in a massive clean-up effort.
Wynne Powell, CEO of the London Drugs chain of stores, said he’s relieved none of his staff were hurt as up to 700 people began “hitting the front of our store.”
“Once they penetrated, the rioters turned from rioting into stealing,” he said. “They became thieves. We estimate approximately 200 individuals were in the store, stealing.”
The looters stripped the shelves of cameras, computers, make-up—whatever they could get their hands on—and smashed anything that got in their way.
Powell estimated about $500,000 in merchandise was stolen and damage to fixtures, cash registers, windows and other store property amounted to a further $500,000.
“This morning, I have it as a million-dollar issue but the main thing I have is a huge relief that our staff is safe.”
Powell said he’s grateful police arrived within 10 minutes of being called as officers on horseback tended to flipped-over police cars and burning vehicles just down the street.
“When you really look at it, they had an impossible mission,” Powell said. “But in the midst of a riot, to have a police force come to save your staff, I said thank you to them.”
Powell said employees were cleaning the mess by 1 a.m., Thursday, just after police left the scene.
“The staff has been working all night to clean up the store,” he said. “The store looked a little war-weary.”
Charles Gauthier, head of the downtown Business Improvement Association, said he’s shocked by the damage to about 50 properties.
He encouraged businesses, including two department stores, to provide any video footage and photos of rioters to police.
Premier Christy Clark and Mayor Gregor Robertson toured the area with Gauthier and praised citizens who helped clean up the streets and said they showed the real spirit of the city’s people.
Clark also called on anyone with evidence to forward it to police so those responsible for the damage can be brought to justice.
Among the people who filled garbage bags with debris on Thursday was Leno, who wore a Boston Bruins jersey and didn’t want his last name used.
He said he watched the hockey game at Rogers Arena and was elated his team scored a 4-0 victory against the Canucks to win the Stanley Cup.
But as he stepped outside the arena, he noticed a mob attacking an elderly couple from Boston and broke the knuckles of one hand as he tried to save them.
“I had two elderly people dragged away from me that I couldn’t protect and I’m trying to sleep with that right now. I have no idea what happened to them. I heard them screaming, that’s all.”
Leno joined another man, Canucks fan Lenny Fisher, as the two picked up garbage from the street outside a damaged store.
“One piece at a time off the ground will help fix this whole thing,” Fisher said, as he pointed to dry blood on the sidewalk.
“Share the love, everybody,” he said as people wrote messages such as “I love Vancouver” and “Why?” on the boards covering broken windows outside several stores.
Jamie Dechamplain, a 28-year-old paraplegic, was picking up garbage with a metal reacher as she sat in her wheelchair, with her service dog at her side.
“I just felt like I had to come down, help out, pitch in and put Vancouver back together.”
Al Cyrenne, brought his own broom as he made his way downtown on the Canada Line.
“I’m all choked up,” he said, as he surveyed broken windows and debris on a downtown street. “I can’t believe the scene. Just talking about it brings me to tears.”
Bob Glass, president of the Downtown Vancouver Association, said his organization is calling for an inquiry into the riot to help establish a protocol to manage future public events.
Glass estimated the damage downtown is “in the millions. But it’s the damage to our reputation worldwide that is incalculable.”