Officially, the Vancouver police department says they had last Wednesday’s Stanley Cup riot under control by 11:45 p.m.
But the thuggery that smashed and burned its way through the city’s downtown continues—it’s moved online.
There’s no doubt the Internet played a role in the mayhem.
There have been reports of Twitter postings and text messages being exchanged Wednesday afternoon, long before the puck dropped to begin Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, that trouble was brewing. And when it did get started, it seemed everyone wanted to capture a moment to post on their blog or Facebook page. Young people posed and smiled in front of burning cars and smashed storefronts.
In the hours and days after order was restored, the fallout from the riot moved into the virtual world.
Some of it has been good; volunteers were organized via social media for a morning-after clean up, individual acts of heroism were highlighted and lauded, an international sensation was created over a photo of a couple exchanging a kiss amidst the mayhem.
But much has been as hateful as the riot itself. The very same mob mentality that rampaged through Vancouver’s streets has now infected its online afterlife.
Some people who’ve had their photos posted on websites seeking to identify the riot’s troublemakers have been harassed, their families threatened.
There’s no doubt the people who participated in the violence and mayhem should be held accountable. Many of them are now learning valuable lessons about the consequences of their behaviour that night and the fragility of online anonymity. But virtual vigilantism only perpetuates the ugliness that fuelled the riot, and further blackens the city’s already charred reputation.
Leave it to police and legal authorities to investigate what happened that night and prosecute who was responsible.