'Pre-riotous behaviour' note not meant as warning: officials

A note of "pre-riotous behaviour" by the head of the liquor board three days before the final game of the Stanley Cup was by no means a warning of the chaos that ensued, said officials.
Police say that, despite early concerns about alcohol and violence, no one had predicted the Vancouver riot, the CBC's Kirk Williams reports 2:02

A note of "pre-riotous behaviour" by the head of the liquor board three days before the final game of the Stanley Cup was by no means a warning of the chaos that ensued, officials said Thursday.

Vancouver's mayor and police chief have always said they had no indication that the crowd attending Game 7 on June 15 might get out of hand.

Material released on Wednesday by the B.C. government shows emergency officials raised concerns about increasing problems with crowd control.

After a conference call with police and emergency officials on June 12, Karen Ayers, general manager of the Liquor Licensing and Control Board, wrote in an email: "We are expecting record crowds (for Game 6 on June 13) as this may be the deciding game, and given the escalating problems, intoxication, violence and pre-riotous behaviour, I have made a decision under the Liquor Licensing and Control Act to close all liquor stores in the downtown Vancouver core at 4 p.m. tomorrow evening."

Ayers clarified her email to CBC News on Thursday saying, "No one including myself contemplated that there would be a riot and I don't think the correspondence shows that a riot was predicted, nor does it demonstrate that I warned the [Vancouver Police Department] about riotous or pre-riotous behaviour."

She also pointed out her email was based on information from police and other personnel on the ground.

When the Canucks lost Game 7 on June 15, a riot led to millions of dollars in damage to downtown businesses and the destruction of more than a dozen vehicles.

'Her choice of words is her choice'

Vancouver Police Chief Constable Jim Chu maintained his previous position that there was no specific intelligence to suggest there would be a riot following Game 7.

Speaking on Thursday, Chu said Karen Ayers was only reflecting what police already knew.

"She's concerned there might be problems based on information we gave her. We were concerned there might be problems as well. Now her choice of words is her choice, but that's information we gave her," said Chu.

Chu also said Ayers' comments were her own personal thoughts, and were not considered a warning by police in their planning.

"That kind of behaviour and that kind of enforcement activity — it's occurred many times on Vancouver streets. It occurred during the Olympics, during the Celebration of Light — it doesn't mean there's going to be a riot," said Chu. 

An internal review released by the Vancouver police on Sept. 6 concluded the department's response was justified and insisted there was no way to know a riot would break out.

The chief said Thursday he expects hundreds of charges will be laid in connection with riot damage starting in late October. So far, seventy people suspected of causing damage have turned themselves in. 

'Off the charts,' says mayor

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said Wednesday city officials were ready for trouble after Game 7, but they were just overwhelmed by the massive crowds.

A Vancouver rioter uses a hockey stick to smash windows in a Blenz coffee shop. (CBC)

"There was a plan to deal with a riot if it emerged at a certain scale, but nowhere near the scale that happened when we saw that many people downtown, that many people drunk and coming in during the game," said Robertson on Wednesday.

"It was just off the charts in terms of scale, and that was what was different."

But Coun. Suzanne Anton, who hopes to unseat Robertson in the coming November civic election, said it appears the mayor was the only one who didn't see the riot coming.

"When you know that kind of trouble is coming, you don't just sit at the game and have a nice time and wait until after the game," said Anton. "Those problems were very apparent that night, and now we know how apparent they were several nights earlier."

Anton said Chu took the heat for the policing and Robertson needs to do the same for the city's role in the planning.

"You have never heard the mayor say, 'I am accountable for what happened that night. It was a city-run event. I am accountable,'" she said.

Documents released by mistake

The documents had been released under a Freedom of Information Act request by online magazine The Tyee, which under a new B.C. government policy is entitled to exclusive access for three days.

Someone in government made a mistake and posted the documents prematurely online. The material was taken down shortly after.

The 97 pages of documents start with 12 pages of handwritten, unsigned notes from a few meetings between liquor licensing and various emergency officials the second week in June.

Some of the most revealing comments are scribblings on the first page, which refer to the crowds as younger, male and rowdier, and in the most telling word, "idiots."

There are also references in the documents to crowds acting like zombies and being hard to control.