Revisiting the Gastown Riot

Posted by Daniel on Jan 18, 2010 - 3 comments

I paid a visit to the new Woodward's Centre in downtown Vancouver over the weekend to get a look at Stan Douglas's photo mural that is mounted there. A fabulous addition to the city's stock of public art.

The giant photo depicts the corner of Abbott and Cordova -- that is, right outside the spot where the mural is located -- during the infamous Gastown "riot" that occurred there on August 7, 1971. The artist recreated the scene in a parking lot at the PNE.

The "riot" took place when police, some on horseback, violently overreacted to a demonstation in favour of the legalization of marijuana. The riot squad tried to clear the streets using nightsticks and boots. According to Michael Barnholden's account in his valuable book, Reading the Riot Act: A Brief History of Riots in Vancouver, 12 people were sent to hospital, 79 taken into custody and 38 charged.