Rioters 'disguised as Canucks fans': Police chief

Canucks fans set a car on fire and riot in the streets in Vancouver, B.C., June 15, 2011. (CARMINE...

Canucks fans set a car on fire and riot in the streets in Vancouver, B.C., June 15, 2011. (CARMINE MARINELLI/QMI Agency)

STEPHANIE IP and ERICA BULMAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:55 PM ET

VANCOUVER - Looters and hooligans who ransacked the city's downtown during Wednesday’s riots were "disguised as Vancouver Canucks fans," said Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu.

“These were people who came equipped with masks, goggles and gasoline, even fire extinguishers that they would use as weapons,” Chu said in the aftermath of riots that brought shame to an entire nation Thursday.

Thousands of Vancouver residents took to the streets to clean up the destruction.

At least 50 businesses were ransacked and 15 vehicles torched, including two police cruisers.

Volunteers solemnly advanced through the charred streets, clearing away shattered storefronts windows, broken glass and strewn litter, many answering the call of a Facebook mass clean-up campaign.

“I feel as if my home was raped,” said Candice Wall, 50, after she spent Thursday morning stuffing garbage bags full of debris.

“All I want to do it bandage its wounds and console it," she said.

Mayor of Vancouver Gregor Robertson toured damaged businesses, surveyed the wreckage, while city councillors pitched in. British Columbia Premier Christy Clark briefly swept debris into a dustpan held by a helper.

“As mayor, I have never been as disappointed and outraged ....What we saw on our streets was an absolute disgrace,” said Robertson, who thanked the city’s police, fire and ambulance services.

No immediate damage estimates were available.

Thousands of residents lined up to sign an Apology Wall – plywood boards erected at the looted Hudson's Bay Company store downtown – to express their sorrow at the violence and destruction.

Police recognized bystanders caught in the midst of the riot who protected stores and the injured.

“Throughout the night, we saw many examples of citizens standing between businesses and the looters,” said Chu, describing how one group of bystanders linked arms to create a protective barrier around an injured fan so police could reach him.

Footage of heroic acts by people trying to protect their city have gone viral online. In one instance, a man bravely keeps looters away outside a downtown Bay store, almost single-handedly, before finally getting swarmed and badly beaten.

“Watching those videos makes you sick,” said Vancouver Police Const. Lindsey Houghton.

Chu said "hundreds" of officers were deployed to control crowds. Nine officers were injured. One officer required 14 stitches after trying to stop looters at a sports shop. Another was hit in the head by brick and several others suffered human bite wounds.

More than 150 people were treated at hospital, half a dozen with serious injuries. One man remains in serious but stable condition.

Police tips have poured in from the public.

As of Thursday morning, more than 520 tips were received by investigators.

Police said almost 100 people have been arrested and 387 incidents have been reported throughout the city ranging from fires to medical injuries.


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