Sociology prof explains riot: Young people are dumb
A sociology professor says she's "going to go with the young people are dumb explanation" for why nearly 1,000 people rioted in London, Ont., early Sunday morning in the wake of St. Patrick's Day festivities.
Rima Wilkes of the University of British Columbia rejects the notion that the rioters -- who attacked police and firefighters, overturned cars and lit fires -- are angry and disenchanted youth, or the coddled children of baby boomers merely acting out.
Wilkes said the riot was similar to the one that occurred last June in Vancouver after the Canucks lost to Boston in the Stanley Cup final, in that it was fuelled by alcohol and a party atmosphere.
Wilkes told CTV News Channel in an interview from Vancouver that there are two kinds of riots: alcohol-fuelled riots such as this one and the one in Vancouver; and riots based on ethnic tensions or social unrest, which "are motivated by something else."
Police have so far arrested 13 people in the wake of the riot, eight of whom are students of nearby Fanshawe College. Those students have been suspended and are facing expulsion.
While Sunday morning's riot included youth from other schools and nearby towns and did not occur right on the campus, Fanshawe College president Howard Rundle said the school is probing the incident because its student code of conduct can be applied to off-campus incidents in special circumstances.
The violence began around 10 p.m. Saturday night, when the crowd lit a fire and added all manner of debris as fuel. The crowd later swarmed a CTV News van and set it alight.
Damage was estimated at $100,000.
Wilkes said one theory she does agree with is that under certain circumstances, youth seem compelled to destroy property.
"When I see these events, I can't help thinking back to my undergraduate days, which was about 20 years ago, and I saw this kind of behaviour even back then," she said.
"I saw mainly young men, getting drunk, throwing furniture around. If you trashed a place at the end of a party that was the sign that it was a good party. And I kind of think this is more of the same. So I don't think this is something new."
Police say more arrests and charges are expected as they review videos, speak to witnesses and comb social media sites for evidence. Students have also started a Facebook page to help identify suspected rioters.
Const. Dennis Rivest said investigators have received a great deal of information about suspects spotted online, as well as through YouTube and Twitter.
Wilkes said social media's growing usefulness as an investigative tool makes the entire incident all the more puzzling.
"I was surprised that this didn't end with the Vancouver riot. They know they're going to get caught," she said.
"So maybe we need to publicize a little more, ‘Hey you're going to get caught if you do this kind of thing. It's not cool.' And basically I think people need to remember that they're probably being filmed all the time."