June 15, 2012. Winnipeg Jets Win Stanley Cup.
Okay...hasn't happened yet. But what if it did?
Are we prepared for a riot?
Vancouver was fairly confident that they could avoid such a scene that had previously plagued them the last time they hosted Stanley Cup hopes and failed.
I know that one DJ host has tried to get a future pledge of Winnipeggers not to riot in the aftermath of victory or defeat. This is a good thing and would appeal to most citizens. However, maybe not to those who through political belief or drunken loutedness wish to cause havoc.
It is important to have the discussion of whether people in Winnipeg might riot. The fact that the Winnipeg Jets hockey team has already shown that people will break the law to mount barrier at Portage and Main is indicative of the passion people feel about the team.
So what to do to create a happy or celebratory feeling without being heavy handed while at the same time preventing violence?
Well, let's think aloud:
How to Prevent Riots
1 MORE POLICE
First and foremost, riots are less likely to occur if there is a strong presence of police. The LA riots in 1992 were able to accelerate because there were often no police around. Some police abandoned their positions according to reports and residents of Koreatown had to protect themselves.
I think that police cadets, police and other patrols have to be out in full force on game days. Traffic and crowd control should be expected regularly and in play-offs, you should not be able to turn two feet without a police officer being nearby.
Enforcement should be friendly and helpful. Most people are just looking to go home after games but is entirely possible that people could flood out into the streets cheering even for things such as getting into the play-offs on the last day possible. The trick is to be prepared.
If everyone is used to seeing cops, they will know what the limits are.
2 SAFETY AUDIT
I think in the interest of special events, conventions and sports, a new safety audit has to be conducted of the downtown. Reports on blind spots, dark areas and places of special concern should all be noted.
In keeping with that audit, new lighting, mirrors and patrol routes should be put up to keep people safe and to make them feel safe.
The assumption that a potential riot would happen on Portage or at Portage and Main is a good one. However, what if it happened in the MTS Centre or the walkway system or a parkade? Best to assume that trouble could happen in a few different places.
3. PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS
There are some newspaper columnists that believe that if everyone is armed, we will be safer.
I mentioned the 1992 riots when police were reported to have abandoned their posts. In that case, Koreatown shopkeepers protected themselves. Some point to this as being the example we should look at: Buy a gun, protect yourself and stop the riot. The newspaper columnist points this out.
He goes further though and mentions Switzerland where everyone has a gun:
There won't be any looting in Switzerland, ever. There won't even be a fantasy. Swiss families are protected by what's in their culture, their laws, their heads, their hearts and their gun racks.
There are 700,000 assault rifles registered in Switzerland. And you can bet your bullets Zurich and Bern and Geneva will never look like London.
Bullets do fly in Switzerland. Just not from riots:
In 2001, one of the worst mass killings in Europe took place in Switzerland.
Just after 10am on September 28, Friedrich Leibacher made his way into the parliament building of the Swiss canton of Zug and unleashed a bloodbath. In total, 14 people were shot dead. Three of the seven members of the local Zug government were killed, and another was seriously wounded. Eleven of the 80 members of the canton council were shot dead and numerous others wounded. Two journalists were also badly injured.
Sadly, this was not an isolated case in that country.
The widespread armament of the people does not necessarily translate into keeping the peace.
So, how does one protect their business?
Well, it may simply mean being present. In Vancouver, some shopkeepers were able to thwart would be looters just by being at their store.
Now, this isn't always the best course of action in a rapidly deteriorating situation but there is strength in numbers. Imagine if several shops had their people out on the street in front of their shops.
Other measures to protect business could include video cameras, better lighting and better security for doors and windows. Hopefully, it will never mean pulling a metal garage door down in front of the shop.
3. PEOPLE SECURITY
I think if the Winnipeg Jets make the play-offs, we need people to pledge to look out for one another. This might mean stopping aggressive behaviour before it happens. If a friend is overdrinking, steer them away from conflict. If someone sees an act of violence, theft or vandalism, report it, record it, discourage it.
The mob in a riot often acts as it does because they believe they are anonymous. Ensure that anyone acting out with be known to everyone.
If there is no police presence, people security can act as a deterrent. There is a big difference between being a bystander and a witness. A bystander does nothing while a witness reveals what they saw and heard.
Pledge to be part of the solution, not the problem.
4. GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT
Various levels of government need to have a plan. They need to plan a response, train for a response and keep modifying it according to assessment.
In terms of the Winnipeg Jets, there needs to be a well established pattern to police deployment. But things can't just be left to that one government department at the city level. The various safety committees in City Hall should be planning and acting now about areas that could be problems.
For example, it would be the height of dumbness if a city construction project was underway on Portage Avenue and a big pile of bricks sat outside Portage Place.
The police can do a lot but don't handicap them by leaving potential weapons on the street for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup.
The aforementioned safety audit would be a good guide for City Hall to figure out how to make the city secure in a general sense. It is important to think outside the box. What if a riot occurred on Graham Avenue rather than Portage? What if it broke up into several segments? What if it was inside a building?
Don't focus solely on one street.
The provincial and federal governments are not left out of this equation.
If Winnipeg gets into the play-offs, the province would do well to have judges and other court officials at the ready if needed. Hundreds of people might be arrested and it does no one well if all the judges have put up the "gone fishin" sign.
The province should have a quick response plan for getting people remanded and before a judge quickly. This is in the event of a riot but in the aftermath after as well. No one who riots should think they will escape responsibility for it. That response should be speedy to discourage further incidents.
The assumption should not be that there is one riot and it ends there. It could compound if government appears slow.
At both the provincial level and the federal levels, the governments there can assist with intelligence and logistics. If riots are being organized through Twitter, Facebook and the semi-private Blackberry, only higher levels of government have the ability to monitor and/or shut down.
There is some debate in this area from privacy advocates but at the very least, monitoring of these networks is probably necessary. We have already seem flashmob violence in the U.S. It is probably best not to be caught flatfooted in this area.
The federal government also has many resources in justice and security to assist in advance of things and with haste during and after an event.
Don't respond too slowly at every turn. Now is the time to plan for things. It should always be about responding quickly and smartly.
It is going to be hard to say: we didn't know when people are already thinking "what if..."
Well, the government and people in general need to think the same thing.
Speed, speed, speed.
If a riot starts in the MTS Centre, smother it fast. If looting happens at Portage Place, move quickly.
If the mobs splits up or tries to disappear in the crowd, have spotters high up. Grab them, remove them, follow them but for Pete's sake, don't leave them to build a bonfire of police cars.
6 Media Saturation
Talk openly about personal responsibility on the media. Emphasize the community shame from acts of violence.
Indicate what measures are in place for people's security and how people can help to assist.
Some in the media are saying what if everyone had a gun. How about if everyone had a camera?
It would be a lot harder for someone to commit crimes with several cameras on them and knowing it was going to be posted up for all to see and provided to the police.
While it won't stop some people, it will stop a lot. And those that do act in front of a camera ought to know that while they might break a window, they will be taken into custody.
For the anarchists who cover their face, just remember they probably didn't arrive that way and won't be leaving that way. A compendium of photos and video evidence can catch people along with good intelligence and other preventative measures.
Well, that's in a nutshell. I'm no police expert but we can't be smug here about the issue of a riot.
Truly the answer is a little more involved that just arm everyone.
And one last thing: Go Jets go!