Social media used to find Good Samaritan, hunt rioters
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Thursday, June 16, 2011 9:46PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 5:05AM EDT
Amid the search for the criminals, hooligans and drunkards involved in the Vancouver hockey riots, Canadians are also using social media to find the identity of a lone man who was attacked for trying to stop the mob from damaging a department store.
"Canada needs more people with his character and courage," federal Heritage Minister James Moore wrote on his Twitter page.
Moore linked to a YouTube video, which shows a man in a black shirt yelling at rioters to back away from a Bay store.
He is then attacked by a group of about 10 young men, who punch him until he falls to the ground, at which point they begin kicking him.
Eventually two people protect him and help carry him away.
Moore asked anyone who knows the man to contact him.
There has been a mountain of video and photos of Wednesday's riots posted online in the last 24 hours, and rioters may have discovered some unwelcome evidence of their actions when they logged into Facebook on Thursday.
A social media movement has taken root in the aftermath of the chaos, with angry, embarrassed citizens posting images online and asking for help identifying the perpetrators.
The Facebook page titled "Vancouver Riot Pics: Post Your Photos" had almost 25,000 likes and more than 60,000 comments by Thursday morning.
The creator of the site urged users to post any pictures of the riots that could be used as criminal evidence, and asked viewers to tag anyone that they recognized.
Other users provided information on how to email photos directly to the Vancouver Police Department.
The site showed pictures of violent confrontations, burning cars and individuals carrying out vandalism, often with nothing hiding their identity.
One posting consisted of a screen grab from a Facebook page where the user claimed in a status update to have knocked a police officer to the ground, "flipped some cars, burnt some smart cars, burnt some cop cars, I'm on the news."
A friend quickly posted a comment, warning the poster that the status could be used as evidence.
CTV legal analyst Steven Skurka said that such a comment would no doubt launch a police investigation into its validity.
"A voluntary digital confession can be a powerful piece of evidence against someone," he told CTV.ca Thursday night.
Skurka says social media allows police to proceed in their investigation at an accelerated pace.
"There are two novel features of social media in gathering evidence. It involves the public in the process, and how quickly it allows police to investigate," he said.
Another Facebook page, titled "Canucks fans against the 2011 Vancouver Riots" had more than 3,000 likes by Thursday morning.
Hundreds of people had commented on the site, criticizing the rioters and arguing that the majority of Vancouverites were not involved and did not approve.
A page set up on the micro-blogging website Tumblr, dubbed "Vancouver 2011 Riot Criminal List," also called on users to help police.
"Lets (sic) hold people accountable for their actions!" stated a posting on the page. "All right everyone, lets start posting pictures of the idiots setting fires and looting. Let's get identifying these criminals."
Rebecca Bollwitt, a blogger and Vancouver resident who lives just a few blocks from where the destruction took place, called on Vancouver residents to stand up for their city.
"Everyone out there had a camera, everyone out there had a phone and they were taking pictures of all this happening, so hopefully we can use that and crowd source the information the police will need to bring a little bit of justice to this town," she told CTV's Canada AM.
She said despite the bitter rivalry that developed between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks during their seven-game series, the focus for many fans had shifted away from the outcome of the game.
Now, Bollwitt said, many Vancouverites were no longer angry at the Bruins, but instead were furious with the rioters and the headlines they had made around the world.
She urged witnesses to come forward.
"If you recognized an employee, a colleague or anyone in these photos causing the destruction, you could tag it or leave a comment on Facebook just to kind of get the message out there to identify these people," she said.
The Vancouver Police Department posted a message on Twitter Wednesday night saying they would be releasing information Thursday on how citizens could submit evidence.
Responding to a post from a poster called @jonnypicture, the VPD said "Please hold onto your footage until we are at the point of gathering evidence. We appreciate it!"
Officers used citizen-submitted evidence in the days after the 1994 riots when the Canucks lost to the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup final.
At that time, police set up kiosks in public areas, and asked residents to help attach names to the anonymous people in the pictures.
Another Facebook group was designed as a rallying point for Vancouverites hoping to help with the cleanup on Thursday morning.
Roughly 10,000 people had indicated they planned to attend the event.