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Actions of rioters not unique to Vancouver

Rioters flip a police car in downtown Vancouver. - Seung-Chul Baik photo
Rioters flip a police car in downtown Vancouver.
— image credit: Seung-Chul Baik photo

The violent riot that erupted Wednesday in Vancouver isn’t unique to the city, according to a psychology expert.

“It can happen in Vancouver, it can happen in Toronto or Montreal, it can happen anywhere when you have those conditions at play, and that’s because human psychology’s the same everywhere,” said Farhad Dastur, associate dean of social sciences at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Dastur, who was at Library Square in downtown Vancouver to watch Game 7 and saw the crowds first-hand, said what gave rise to the riot were alcohol-fuelled young people who felt a sense of immortality.

That was coupled with feelings of questioning authority and—in a sea of Canucks jerseys and colours—a loss of sense of self.

“When people feel they are part of a larger group and can’t be identified, they will be disinhibited and step beyond the normal moral boundaries that would control their behaviour,” he said.

Rioters carried out violence despite having cameras trained on them—some even bragging of their actions on social media networks. That suggests young people haven’t caught up with just how public social media is, said Dastur.

“For this new generation who’ve grown up with social media...their sense of privacy is very different than the previous generation who really cared about privacy.”

The riots are already forming case studies for Dastur’s students, who are studying all angles, including the bright side of human psychology.

“I was really gratified to hear...how hundreds, maybe thousands, of people went downtown to volunteer to clean up. People who had no connection to the stores that were damaged were cleaning glass and giving money and contributing their time,” he said. “To me, that is Vancouver. That is our city, our community and our spirit.’

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