June 22, 2011
I was working the evening shift at The Vancouver Sun the night the first hockey riot broke out.
Depressed about the Canucks losing, we’d just about finished laying out the front page and “put the paper to bed”. Then news came in that a mob was forming at Robson and Thurlow, with drunken fans climbing lampposts and breaking windows.
It was June 14, 1994, and as assistant design editor, I was responsible for laying out the front page and selecting and editing the pictures the photographers brought back. We were still using negatives, then, of course, peering over them carefully with a loupe, selecting the sharpest and the best.
As the night wore on, we stripped apart the front page and inside pages to add more and more dramatic photos of the rioters and the riot police. We worked flat out until 1:30 a.m., doing a triple chaser for the paper.
Media photographers and broadcasters were really the only ones at the riot scene in 1994 and our negatives showed people climbing lampposts, wrecking and looting stores, and assaulting police officers.
That night, we didn’t really have time to analyze the reasons for the riot, or even the consequences of having captured evidence of people committing crimes.
But the next day, I remember how protective we felt about the negatives, and how we even considered hiding them. In our department, we didn’t want to hand them over to the police. We were worried that it would turn our photographers into targets for criminals in the future and also wanted to protect the civil liberties of those photographed, even those committing crimes. That time, the riot police seemed to have charged in aggressively, as well, and we didn’t quite trust the police not to massage their own role in the riot. Continue reading