We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Canucks Fans Celebrate Loss by Burning Cars, Looting

Click here to access article by Zig Zag from Vancouver Media Co-op. 

I don't normally comment on localized events, especially events connected with sports. However, having lived in Vancouver, BC for about four years and having been in many political demonstrations, I see a definite social class aspect to riots in general and how this one fits into that view. Social class does not explain everything in the world, but it does explain a lot. And it is interesting to observe that such an analysis is nearly always missing from mainstream media portrayals.

To the reporter's credit, the article offers a much more neutral view than is provided in mainstream Canadian coverage which has been more concerned with protecting Vancouver's "image" and dismissing the event with knee-jerk responses blaming hooligans, anarchists, and leftists. S/he offered some analysis, but what was offered explained little.

I think that one comment following the article offered by "c-gordon" really gets at the social class aspect of this and other riots.
I'll first commend you on some good on the scene reporting, and your criticism of the police response is spot on, but your analysis is far from accurate in my opinion.

This wasn't a riot of the oppressed, this wasn't a release of frustrations from the disenfranchised.  These were middle class, white male shitkickers, the same privileged yuppiespawn that turn the same neighborhood into a warzone every weekend. Fuelled by a combination of alcohol, testosterone and the complete lack of personal accountability that comes with their spoiled upbringings.

They weren't inspired by people who fought for causes, they were lashing out in rage from an insult to their corporately-sponsored nationalism. They were looking for someone to hurt, something to break for fun.  Western capitalist culture has glorified this mean-spirited, aggressive and violent behavior in young men, both blatently and latently.

The rather muted police response to this compared to the G20 or even the Heart Attack demonstrations were telling. The kid gloves policy enacted by police was deliberate. It was because these were the privileged, the spoiled, the dominant. It's perfectly fine in this political environment to assault, oppress and beat "losers" like ethnic minorities, women, the poor, the homeless, the disenfranchised. But these weren't them, these were the children of important people, "pillars of the community", and were given a free pass.
This analysis completely fits with a class view of the function of police in any class structured society, and especially in a capitalist society. In the latter their purpose is to protect the system of capitalism from any threats against the legitimacy of the system, and the interests of the capitalist class such as threats to private property. Hence, the dual way that police handle riots.

In riots that occur in relation to political protest demonstrations, the police typically see the crowds as the enemy because they threaten the legitimacy of the system. Hence their response is aggressive and they attack the crowd indiscriminately. Very frequently the rioting in these events have been engineered by police provocateurs in order to justify their crackdown and to tarnish the demonstrator's issues. 

Whereas, in riots that occurs after sporting events, the police use much more friendly methods in the initial phases, and then crack down on rioters in a much more discriminatory fashion according to the rioter's behavior.