The Toronto Riots of 2010

The bigger the crowd, the more people show up for it.  A quote I heard comedian Gallagher speak as part of a larger routine, that I have never forgotten, and occasionally use in general conversation.  People do love a crowd, and it builds, slowly at first, and faster as it gets bigger.

In Toronto, people usually feel safe downtown, even at 4am alone on a street.  When we had a riot, people ran to it rather than away.  They took their cameras and flooded the streets, and then complained when this caused more problems.

My TV trained mind often looks at life as if it were a script.   I evaluate my situation as if it were written for TV or a movie.  How would what I experience be different if it were filmed for Prime Time.

Recently, Toronto experienced a tame, but still uncharacteristic riot or two in our otherwise great downtown core.  For many, this would be the closest they’d get to a real city riot.  It would be their first scary downtown experience.  They flocked towards it, with the promise of action they could photograph and blog and report.  If regular people are now the news, then events like this get a crowd.  The bigger the crowd, the more people showed up.

Since then, I have read some of the articles, blogs, pictures and even stories about the experience.  Many blame somebody, either the police or the Government.  Others call for investigations and change of power.  For the most part, American interpretations included mostly mocking.  It wasn’t a real US style riot.  Nobody got killed and only one police car was rolled and set aflame.  When looked at from a different perspective, the riot was almost planned for TV. 


As an aside, Canadians seem really pleased to be made fun of.  We love it when TV makes a joke about Canadians.  We even help them by setting up the joke for them, like having giant Beavers at the Olympics.  We are just asking them to notice us and make a joke.  Even our riots are worthy of jest. 


Of course, a riot doesn’t actually just start from nowhere. It is logical to at least discuss that a riot must be organized, planned and executed by a team.  I would never throw a chair at a store window on my own, unprovoked, but in a riot, it seems some people are willing to.  Fantasies burst open pretty fast in a crowd, and people do what people see.   

Our riot wasn’t as bad as most we see on the news.  I don’t think anyone was killed, and few innocents got hurt. There are blogs of people being treated poorly by police, but that’s to be expected when a crowd grows into a riot.  The end result was a crowd that looked great on TV.  If it had been scripted, it would have played out very much the same way.  A single car was rolled and let to burn, for all to see.  I guess it isn’t a riot until a car is set on fire.  Before that, it’s just some broken glass and free looting.

I have seen the power of the crowd. Our nature desires to see what people are looking at.  It’s hard not to look at a crowd, even at the exclusion of all else.  If we can’t determine what the crowd is looking at, we’ll try hard to see.  We even have to stop, or slow our driving when approaching a roadside crowd.

In the TV version of similar events, there would be a sub-plot.  In these riots, I never learned the identity or purpose for the start, but in a movie, there would certainly be a reason.  The riot would be started on purpose.  When I think life is like TV, I assume things that may not be true, but are still logical and possible.  How would this riot have been different if it were a movie?  It would have been the same, only the police car would have blown up bigger and maybe flipped over.

After the first commercial break, we’d see the riot was just a distraction. A different crime happening elsewhere that needed police busy elsewhere.  What better distraction for a different crime than splitting officers between two distractions.  I forgot to mention the riots happened during a world wide Government conference with huge security, nearby.  A great percentage of enforcement, both on and off duty was working the area, around the corner.  The riots called in even more police, from other areas.  It stands to reason this might be a good time to speed and steal. There are only so many cops, and they can’t be everywhere.  Most of them are here.  Everybody else is home watching the world cup.

I wonder how many other crimes went unnoticed during our mini riot.  It makes the most sense to me.  In fact, if I were planning a crime, I can’t think of a better plan than to start a riot on the other side of the city.

End of part 1