Let's stop pointing fingers after riot 0
In our disgrace, we pointed fingers too.
To live in Vancouver back in 1994 was to know the deep shame of seeing your downtown destroyed by rioters, while the rest of Canada looked on in bemusement and disgust.
Some 70,000 people battled police around Robson Street that June 14 night, and the next morning, the streets were littered with broken glass, tear gas canisters and debris.
Like the city's reputation, the downtown was in tatters.
For those living there, the 1994 riot was embarrassing and unexpected - a show of poor sportsmanship adding up to more than one million dollars damage and injuries to 200 people.
And just like Vancouverites today, those living on the coast 17 years ago desperately tried to deflect the blame: This was not the real Vancouver, and these were not real hockey fans.
Many blamed police, saying a kinder, gentle approach by those in uniform would have kept the post-game party from exploding.
"I was standing there when the police walked right by us in their riot gear, hitting their shields," recalled Paul Overn, a Calgarian who lived in Vancouver in 1994.
He was at ground zero for that riot - right at the intersection of Robson and Thurlow, where throngs of drunks were venting their frustration over the Stanley Cup loss.
From where he stood, it looked like a rowdy party made violent by heavy-handed police.
"Nobody spoke to us, telling people to mellow out, or anything - the way the police behaved agitated the crowd," said Overn.
"The next thing you know, there's two shots of tear gas, and everything went nuts."
Overn's belief the police tactics triggered the riots that followed was shared by plenty of Vancouverites - it was a convenient straw to grasp, given the shame and humiliation.
To believe it was someone else's fault was to absolve Vancouver of blame - it would explain how a decent, cosmopolitan city could collapse into an orgy of stupidity.
It's taken 17 years to show how wrong Vancouver was: Another Stanley Cup loss, another disgraceful display of poor sportsmanship, and the fingers are pointing again.
This time, the police are criticized because they weren't aggressive enough.
Damned if they do, damned if they don't; Vancouver's cops did exactly what critics said they failed to do nearly two decades ago.
They mingled with crowds throughout the Cup run, high-fiving fans and showing a friendly side.
When cars started to burn, and things looked ugly, the riot police took the time to issue loudspeaker warnings, asking nicely people please go home.
They even cautioned the crowd that tear gas might soon follow - and then, at the height of the looting and burning, the cops kept their distance instead of wading in with skull-cracking authority.
To see the images of Vancouver - Thursday is to know the new tactic didn't work at all - pleasant policing failed to prevent a repeat of 1994.
So now, as Vancouver cleans a mirror-image mess of the first Stanley Cup riot, fingers are pointing again.
Seeking a scapegoat for 2011, the mayor blames anarchists - and when a few people show up packing crowbars and Molotov cocktails, it's an easy conspiracy to get started.
Others in Vancouver endlessly repeat the mantra, these were not hockey fans. But they were Vancouverites doing all that smashing and stealing.
If not for the participation of ordinary Vancouverites, there would have been no riot, not on Wednesday, and not 17 years ago in 1994.
And maybe that's the real lesson for Vancouver, whether it's 1994 or 2011.