PNE apologizes after Lil Baby cancellation leads to violence
Organizers at the PNE in Vancouver are sending out an apology to neighbours in the community after a concert turned to chaos Sunday night, resulting in what they say is hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Concert-goers trashed the PNE Amphitheatre, with destruction spreading to surrounding areas, after BreakOut Festival headliner Lil Baby announced he would not perform due to illness.
Fans began flipping tables and tents, destroying infrastructure, and even began raiding concession stands in what developed into a sort of riot on the PNE grounds. Vancouver police say several arrests were made and that criminal investigations have been launched.
“We’re in the process of assessing the total amount of damage now,” said PNE spokesperson Laura Ballance Monday.
She notes damage was not just isolated to the PNE, adding the violent outburst spread into Hastings Park and into the surrounding neighbourhood, affecting some local businesses.
“We are working through the community to try and understand what has been damaged and to assure them of a path forward to getting those damages fixed now,” Ballance said in an interview with CityNews, adding the PNE is working with the festival promoter and its insurance company to make sure repairs are done fully and quickly.
Lil Baby was supposed to wrap up the weekend-long festival Sunday night. However, Ballance says the PNE was informed just shortly before the American rapper was set to take the stage that “he was not feeling well and that he had actually left the venue.”
“When that information was relayed to the crowd — there was about 5,200 people in the venue — about 4,200 of them … did leave the venue in an orderly fashion and we’re very, very thankful to them for doing that,” she explained. “About a thousand people decided to turn their disappointment into a very senseless and violent aggression onto the site.”
Images and videos from the carnage show the resulting destruction, with crowds seen flipping garbage bins, tables, tents, and other structures, while others were seen raiding concession stands.
Witnesses also recall seeing violence break out, with one person describing a large fight.
“There were more than 15 cop cars there, ambulance, fire trucks, a bunch of people bleeding all around, police with rifles,” she said.
Ballance says the PNE is sincerely sorry for what happened, adding it’s “incredibly upsetting” that this kind of thing happened there.
Read more: PNE riot after Lil Baby concert cancellation leads to arrests
In addition to the shock to the community, she says the ordeal was also “traumatizing” for staff at the PNE. She is thankful to everyone who was working.
“We do about 1,800 event days a year … and they are always done safely and respectfully of our community, so this was incredibly unfortunate. We’re working through the process now to understand exactly what happened,” Ballance said, adding what happened is “completely inexcusable and does not reflect the values of the PNE, our staff, our neighbours, and the vast majority of our guests who were there.”
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.
Police say “dozens of extra officers were redeployed from other areas of the city” to help “restore order.”
Ballance says the PNE has a “good working relationship” with local police, adding security plans are assessed on an ongoing basis.
“We had enough security, there was enough members of the Vancouver Police Department on-site to deal with a normal concert environment. What happened [Sunday] night wasn’t normal,” she said, thanking police for their response.
While fights and violence broke out, the VPD says there were no major injuries reported. Ballance says some staff members suffered minor injuries.
-With files from Raynaldo Suarez