Riot breaks out at PNE’s BreakOut hip-hop festival

A young man leaps from a drinks tent at the Breakout Festival at Vancouver's PNE, which erupted into chaos Sunday, Sept. 18 after rapper Lil Baby failed to perform | Photo via sarahjsmithh/TikTok

Vancouver Police are investigating the worst riot in Vancouver since the Vancouver Canucks Stanley Cup Final Game 7 loss in 2011. 

The last-minute cancellation of rapper Lil Baby at the two-day BreakOut Festival in the Pacific National Exhibition Amphitheatre caused several hundred people to ransack food and drink kiosks on Sunday night. 

Vancouver Police said Monday morning they had made seven arrests and launched a criminal investigation. Public information officer Const. Tania Visintin said police were already on-scene, providing extra security, when several hundred people began fighting and destroying property. Additional officers, including those with the Metro Vancouver Transit Police, responded. No major injuries were reported, but food and drink vending locations, including equipment, were destroyed. 

“We do not condone violence or destruction of property and are utterly disappointed with the way some of our patrons acted at this year’s event,” BreakOut Tweeted on Monday morning, pledging partial refunds for two-day and Sunday ticket holders.

The incident paled in comparison to the long night of June 15, 2011, when booze-fuelled, disappointed hockey fans caused more than $5 million of damage after the Boston Bruins upset the Canucks at Rogers Arena in the championship-deciding game. More than 300 people were eventually charged.  

In a statement, PNE management said fans “turned their disappointment into anger, doing significant damage to the PNE Amphitheatre and parts of Hastings Park. Today, 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 PNE was thankful to the VPD and sorry to Hastings Park neighbours. “We will be undertaking a full investigation and will be making further statements shortly.”

The ill-fated BreakOut Festival happened more than 50 years after a riot on Renfrew Street when the Rolling Stones launched their Exile on Main Street tour. The June 3, 1972 concert in the Pacific Coliseum drew 17,000 inside and some 2,500 outside. Twenty-two people were charged and 31 police officers injured, including 13 who were taken to hospital. 

The 20th anniversary of Vancouver’s Guns N’ Roses riot at then-GM Place is coming Nov. 7. 

The band was scheduled to begin its first North American tour since 1993, but Axl Rose’s flight from Los Angeles International Airport was delayed due to weather. More than an hour after the doors were supposed to open, arena management announced cancellation of the concert. 

Some angry fans grabbed whatever they could, including steel fencing, and threw it at the windows. A dozen people were arrested.

Two injured men accused several Vancouver Police officers of brutality. A police complaint commission adjudicator found two officers used unnecessary force on one of the men, but did not punish them because of unblemished records of service and they committed a “momentary lapse” in extremely stressful circumstances.