There was fire, looting, blood-spattered rioters, shattered glass, destruction and mayhem.
Yet in the aftermath of the chaos that rocked Vancouver, B.C., Canada, last week, the image that has burned more indelibly in the public consciousness than any fire or baton-wielding policeman is a simple kiss.
Scott Jones and girlfriend Alex Thomas were photographed kissing on the ground while surrounded by riot police as chaos swirled around them following the Vancouver Canucks’ loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday. Illuminated in a glow, they looked like they belonged on a movie poster (their embrace even drew a comparison to the iconic image of lovers on a beach from the film classic “From Here to Eternity”).
But video later showed that the two were actually on the ground because they’d been knocked there by police. Rather than setting his girlfriend’s heart fluttering with a well-timed smooch, Jones was, in fact, attempting to bring it under control.
“I was just trying to calm her down,’’ Jones told TODAY’s Matt Lauer and Ann Curry via satellite from Vancouver in an exclusive interview alongside Thomas on Monday. “It was pretty scary for her, and it seemed like the best thing to do.’’
Real or fake?
While the two were on the ground, Getty photographer Richard Lam was able to snap a few quick shots even as he was being shoved by rioters and police alike. Lam initially thought the two people on the ground were injured, not amorous.
“I would always know those feelings and emotions from that, but that there’s a photograph that so clearly shows it is just pretty incredible,’’ Thomas said.Video: Vancouver kissing couple: 'It seemed like the best thing to do' (on this page)
As for Jones, the 29-year-old Australian may have been trying to calm his girlfriend of six months in the midst of the madness, yet the reaction to the image across the Web was anything but tranquil. Soon the online world was buzzing with two urgent questions: Who are these young lovers, and is their photo real or a clever Photoshop juxtaposition?
Twitter and Facebook raged with the notion that the photo was a hoax, but “that really only happened in the first day or so, before anyone knew any background of the shot,’’ Jones said. “I guess it was just such a good shot that people couldn’t believe that would happen.’’
News outlets scrambled to find the identities of the couple. Soon Jones was dubbed the “Riot Romeo,’’ and a couple who had planned to witness the spectacle of the seventh game of the Stanley Cup found themselves a bigger spectacle.
Jones assured Lauer and Curry that he and Thomas were not participating in any illegal activities during the rioting that roiled a 10-block radius in the shopping district of downtown Vancouver after the game. Fifteen cars were burned and storefronts were destroyed in the chaos.
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It was not exactly the kind of excitement that Jones and Thomas had been seeking. “I would call myself a tourist,’’ Jones said. “It was Game 7, Stanley Cup finals, so something was going to happen whether we won or lost — something big. I just wanted to bear witness to what was going on. I never felt in danger while we were down there until the riot police came along.’’
“It happened so fast,’’ Thomas said. “I never expected it to turn into that situation so quickly.’’
An aspiring standup comedian, Jones has only been dating Thomas, a Canadian and former student at the University of Guelph in Ontario, for six months. Yet now they have an image to last a lifetime.
“It was just like the perfect lighting, perfect focus,’’ Jones said. “[Lam] saw someone down there injured, and he just wanted to capture it.’’
“I would never have expected anything less,’’ Thomas said about Jones’ reaction of kissing her to calm her down. “We’ve had a great six months, so it’s kind of amazing that there was someone there to take a photo of that and capture that.’’
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