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Vancouver Newspapers, Forced to Hand Over Riot Photos, Instead Make Them Public

Vancouver’s two biggest daily newspapers pulled a classic you-can’t-fire-me-because-I-quit move Thursday. After a judge ordered them to turn over their photos of the post-Stanley Cup Finals riot to the Vancouver police, the papers posted the 5,481 images online in advance of formally turning them over to the cops on Monday.

The papers did so as a heads-up to everyone who happened to be in the streets last June. Rioting or not, the Vancouver police now have photos of thousands of sports fans. Some of them were turning over cars and smashing windows and stealing random crap from Sears and doing Canadian water polo proud. Others were just standing about, and are now, ostensibly, included in this massive trove of images that the Vancouver Sun and the Province have petitioned police to destroy once the investigations conclude.

The Sun’s deputy editor was quoted in the paper’s coverage of the photo deluge: “We will reluctantly turn over the photos and videos to police, but remain concerned that the production order turns journalists into evidence gatherers for police. Police should only make such demands on the media as a last resort. In this case, they have many thousands of photos and videos from the public that are still being reviewed.”

The riot (and a certain well-traveled photo) ignited after the Vancouver Canucks, a team that has never won a Stanley Cup, got manhandled by the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Finals. The streets were clogged with British Columbians who had gathered to watch the game on large outdoor screens, and once the game ended, they ran rather amok. Overall it turned into quite the year for rioters. Around the same time that citizens in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Yemen, Syria and Libya were flooding the streets to protest and even overturn some of the worst governments in the world, at the risk of their lives, and those of their families, the crowd in Vancouver elected to burn and break a bunch of bystanding objects because of a 40-year case of hockey blue balls.

(Still, any voyeurs to violence out there will get a kick out of this video, which depicts the minutes between the end of the game and the beginning of the riot. Note the baby steps the crowd makes on the way to becoming a mob. The echoes of escalating soccer hooliganism Bill Buford chronicles in Among the Thugs are hard to miss.)

Kudos to the Vancouver papers for giving the public access to the same information they had to turn over to the cops, and also for taking advantage of the moment. “Never-before-seen Stanley Cup riot images” the Sun calls them. Never miss a chance to turn an unfavorable court order into page views.

Previously: Vancouver Riots 2011: Craziest Port-o-Potty Video You’ve Ever Seen, Flashbang Hits Man in the Groin & Pacifist Gets 1-Punched
Previously: Vancouver Riots 2011: Unruly Mob Attacks Man Who Tried to Prevent Looting

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