Flashback– A Vancouver Riot That Wasn’t About Hockey

It’s Friday, which means we get to do as the hip, social media influencers do, and initiate a flashback post.  You may be saying to yourself, Mike– that seems like a cop out way to make your word quota for the day, regurgitating facts from a prior event and passing them off as news.  Well, you’d be right.  However, this is a column with deadlines to be met, and to that end, I’d like to throw you back– way, way back– to the year 1972.  A warm evening in June, on the Eastern edge of Vancouver, where the early summer evening descended into chaos at the hands of a notorious rock band, at the height of their powers.

As a preface, Vancouver definitely enjoys a good riot. The last couple have been famously borne of Stanley Cup game 7 losses by the hometown Canucks, and back in the early 2000’s metal heads took their vengeance on BC place when Guns n’ Roses brought their brand of ‘music’ to town.  Back in 72 though, the culprits were the bad boys of the British Invasion, the Rolling Stones, who were fresh off the insane success of four phenomenal albums, and kicking off a tour in support of Exile on Main Street, with the first stop an unlikely date at the Pacific Coliseum.

Obviously demand for the show was through the roof, and because it was the 70’s, if you didn’t have a ticket, your best bet was to mill about near the venue, and try and negotiate with a reseller.  The issue here, was that a large number of fake tickets were circulating at a premium price, and after being gouged in the parking lot, people were getting turned away at the door.  Suddenly, there were a couple thousand angry Stones fans, milling about on Renfrew street, facing an armed cadre of police. Someone decided to throw a smoke bomb, and then a glass bottle at the venue, and as the band kicked off the show with ‘Brown Sugar,’ a molotov cocktail sailed through the night sky and all hell broke loose.  The police charged the crowd, and in the skirmish 22 people were arrested. The stats were worse for the VPD, as 31 officers were injured, and 13 had to be taken to hospital.

The 70’s were a rocky decade for the Stones, and they made headlines again in Canada five years later, partying with then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s wife, Margaret.  Perhaps our flashback was a sign of things to come as the decade unfolded, or perhaps just another example of Vancouver getting it’s riot on.

Stones fans take on the cops in Vancouver, 1972. photo credit– Dan Scott, Vancouver Sun




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