As rioters disgrace Vancouver worldwide, social media will play major role in delivering justice [UPDATED]

by Knowlton Thomas | Culture

It's easy for pundits to scoff at the credibility of "citizen journalism" in social media.

But for anyone following the incredible riot in downtown Vancouver last night after the Boston Bruins trounced the Canucks, it was difficult to deny the value of platforms like Twitter, where people there, in the midst of the mayhem, were publishing hundreds of up-close photos and videos in real-time for the world to see.

Of course, it's not exactly something you want the world to see: wildly drunk teenage males kicking in the windows and burning the awning of the historic Hudsons Bay building; black-masked vandalistic rabble rousers touting fire extinguishers spraying innocent bystanders; swarms of maddened men looting armfuls of goods from London Drugs and Louis Vuitton; the beautiful glass architecture of Chapters being punctured by various metal and concrete projectiles; flipped cars and flipped porta-potties; burning cars and dumpsters; and an outbreak of vicious fights and stabbings.

Shameful. Disgraceful. A giant black mark on what was, only one year ago, the Olympic City. The reputation of millions irreversibly damaged by a select few.

But social media, at the very least, will assist in the delivery of justice.

First, it delivers awareness. It amplifies the magnitude of the event, applying additional pressure to organizations such as the Vancouver Police Department to step up their efforts to find and apprehend the culprits. Second, it creates an open, public, social platform in which millions of Metro Vancouverites can share their stories, photos, and videos, to help identify criminals and piece together the many puzzles of the night.

With #CanucksRiot and #Riot as Vancouver's top two trending stories, and the rest of the list dominated by Future Shop, Sears, and London Drugs—and not for good reason—Twitter keeps the dialogue flowing in two manners: it helps the rest of the world recognize that these insane drunkards do not represent Vancouver or Canada, and it helps 

Twitter has been used effectively in other riots, of course—think Egypt—but it's tragic and unfortunate that this riot isn't to bring an end to an unjust leader, but simply the result of unruly troublemakers looking for mischief. 

Social media certainly cannot repair the millions of dollars of damage done to Vancouver's usually beautiful and peaceful downtown core.

But it can ease the damage dealt to our reputation and help bring justice to the criminals.

And at this point, we need all the help we can with that.

Top tweets:

• : So disappointed about all this, and to see   trend worldwide.

• : The Bay downtown is apparently on fire. This is getting really sad. 

• : So sad watching our  cars on fire and how quickly people can turn from law abiding to law breaking.

• : The real fans would not do this. Those few bad apples DO NOT represent the rest of the fans or our city. 

• : All of the people pitching in to clean up mess they didn't make show that YVR has class, pride and a lot of heart. 

Editor's Update 1: Facebook has rallied supporters as well through various pages.

Tumblr has also contributed, as well as dedicated websites such as Identify Rioters.

Editor's Update 2: #Thisismyvancouver has now started trending as hundreds of volunteers, who were nowhere near last night's riot, have banded together to clean up the mess and "reclaim our city"—demonstrating, once again, the power of social media when it counts most.

Editor's Update 3: Brock Anton is now trending on Twitter nationally after posting a Facebook status that brags about how he punched a cop and burned cars, making the news and "history." Rumours suggest he has since been arrested. This points to the stupidity of some social media users, and the intelligence of others to pit it against the former.



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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes and author of Tempest Bound. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys hiking, tennis, and martial arts. more

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