Vancouver Riot: The Other Side of The Ugliness

For anyone feeling post-riot despair over what British Columbians are capable of, I have an antidote.

His name is Bert Easterbrook. He was beaten bloody for his bravery.

The 32-year-old photographer and care worker for severely disabled people had been watching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final at the Cannabis Culture Vapour Lounge near Gastown, close to the city’s harbour. When he went outside for fresh air, he saw smoke rising from the city core.

“I sent my girl to go hide out in the truck and keep her safe and ran out to get some pictures,” he says. “That’s when I saw a bunch of people being stupid.”

The grandson of a Vancouver policeman, Easterbrook waded into the crowd on Georgia Street near the main post office to help police hold their line. A nearby car was being doused with accelerant, and rioters were rocking a green pickup truck to roll it over.

“Me and a couple other guys said, ‘This is not cool,’ and decided to step in,” he says.

Video taken at the scene shows Easterbrook and at least three other men holding the hooligans — one of whom was bashing the truck’s hood with a hammer — at bay as smoke begins to cloud the vehicle interior from a wad of burning paper thrown inside.

“I just grabbed (the paper) and threw it out,” says Easterbrook, a 6-foot-2, 255-pound karate expert who also works as a security guard for pro-marijuana rallies in Vancouver.

All around, people began chanting, “Burn the truck! Burn the truck!”

When a rioter shoved him and tossed the flaming paper back into the vehicle, Easterbrook smashed him with a forearm. “It’s too bad I ended up having to level somebody,” he says. “I don’t like to have to do that. I had to put him down fast.”

The blow focused the mob’s fury on Easterbrook. “They’re all screaming, ‘He’s an effin’ cop, get him!’ I just protected the camera and grabbed the closest body and went down with him.”

Other footage shows a sea of rioters converging over Easterbrook, battering him with kicks and punches. “I went down face-first. They were all dog-piled on my back,” he says. Hundreds of onlookers cheered the attackers, while police pushed into the mob. Officers began pulling the assailants away, and Easterbrook was able to stand, blood running down his bald head.

Easterbrook, of New Westminster, B.C., saw the 1994 Cup riot, and came away from this one impressed with the police. “In ’94, the cops started it. This year it was the fans. The cops did an amazing job. I kept thanking officers on the way to go find my girlfriend.”

A burned hand kept him off his care-worker job for two days, and he has cuts, bruises and contusions all over.

Easterbrook’s longtime friend, Cannabis Culture magazine editor Jodie Emery, says the hulking photographer displayed the qualities that make him ideal as a security guard during marijuana rallies. “He’s really tough, but he’s really, really gentle,” Emery says. “He’s a super soft-spoken sweetheart. He can’t stand disrespect, and violence is not his thing.”

Acts of heroism occurred throughout the mayhem. One of the men with Easterbrook at the truck later confronted rioters smashing two police cars a couple blocks eastward, until he was forced to run headlong from a bloodthirsty pack of pursuing goons: man in the green shirt and surf trunks, your courage was truly amazing. High praise, too, to John Marchenko, who stood off crazed idiots bashing an overturned car with everything from skateboards to a crowbar; to the men in front of The Bay, including Robert MacKay, who were attacked while trying to prevent looting; to the dozen men and women who linked arms into a protective chain around a man beaten to the ground on Georgia Street, and to all those whose bravery went unnoticed and unrecorded.

You are the other side of the riot coin, the side that shines, and reminds us that in our anger and disappointment, we need not despair. Inside the riot, the morons were many and the heroes were comparatively few. But those who support what the idiots did are but a thin, rotten slice of our society.

We who applaud the heroes are legion.

– Article from The Province.