PNE riot after Lil Baby concert cancellation leads to arrests

The chaos at the PNE after the Vancouver Breakout festival headliner cancelled racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Kier Junos reports on the fallout of the rioting.

By Raynaldo Suarez and Hana Mae Nassar and Charlie Carey

Several arrests have been made after disappointed concert-goers at the PNE in Vancouver turned to chaos Sunday night when rapper Lil Baby was forced to cancel his BreakOut Festival headline performance due to illness.

Images and videos online show attendees channeling their disappointment into destruction, with garbage bins being flipped over and structures being brought down. As tents were flipped over, some social media users said concert-goers even began stealing alcohol.

Witnesses tell CityNews the scene turned violent for some.

“It was a giant fight between a bunch of people probably in their late teens. There were more than 15 cop cars there, ambulance, fire trucks, a bunch of people bleeding all around, police with rifles,” one caller to CityNews described.

Police sirens could be heard wailing through East Vancouver late Sunday as the VPD responded to the scene. In some cases, people reported seeing over a dozen vehicles at a time.

The VPD has since confirmed that fights broke out both “inside and outside the venue,” adding concert-goers “became hostile” after word Lil Baby would not be taking the stage, with some people even climbing lamp posts and other structures.

“Vancouver police officers were already inside the venue and providing extra security when several hundred people began fighting and destroying property in the Amphitheatre on the PNE grounds, and in the surrounding neighbourhood,” explained Const. Tania Visintin.

“Dozens of extra officers were redeployed from other areas of the city to restore order, with some officers having bottles and other objects thrown at them.”

In all, police say seven people were taken into custody for “breach of peace.” Criminal investigations have also been launched, though are expected to take “months to complete.”

Organizers of the festival said earlier in the day that ‘Lil Baby’ had to cancel because he arrived and was “unfortunately too sick to perform.” Ticket holders were asked to get in touch for information about partial refunds.

In a statement to CityNews, organizers say “significant damage” was done to the PNE Amphitheatre, as well as parts of Hastings Park.

“Tonight, our first priority is for the safety and wellbeing of our staff as many were deeply affected by the reaction of guests and behaviour that ensued,” the statement continued.

Organizers say the VPD was quick to respond, adding officers “prevented the situation from becoming much worse.”

In a statement on Monday, PNE spokesperson Laura Ballance says PNE staff were not made aware of Lil Baby’s illness, nor the decision from him to not perform, until after he had already “vacated the site.”

Ballance says of the approximately 5,200 people in attendance, about 4,200 left the venue in an orderly fashion.

“Approximately 1000 of the guests turned their disappointment into a violent outburst that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to PNE property inside the Amphitheatre and in Hastings Park,” she said. “It is our understanding that there was additional damage to property outside of Hastings Park, in the community, and to local businesses. For this, we are incredibly sorry to our neighbours.”

Ballance says the violence seen on Sunday night has “shaken our team.”

“Today, we are providing support to our staff team members who were on site for last night’s events and beginning the process of cleaning up and repairing our venue,” she explained.

Ballance says the organization will be working with the promoter of the festival, Timbre Events, and its insurance provider to ensure the timely repair of all damages related to the incident.

While fights and violence broke out, the VPD says there were no major injuries reported. The damage is estimated to be in the “thousands of dollars,” however Ballance noted it could be in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“We will conduct a full and thorough investigation into the actions of anyone who destroyed property, put concert-goers in danger, or committed other criminal acts,” the VPD’s Visintin added. “Though this investigation will take time, we will pursue criminal charges against people who participated in this violence and destruction.”

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