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Scott Jones and Alex Thomas discuss the photo (bottom) of them sharing a kiss during last week’s rioting in Vancouver, British Columbia, which went viral on the Web.
TODAY contributor
updated 6/20/2011 9:03:09 AM ET 2011-06-20T13:03:09

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.

PHOTOblog: Amorous protestors, lost in the heat of Vancouver riots

“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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Video: Vancouver kissing couple: 'It seemed like the best thing to do'

  1. Closed captioning of: Vancouver kissing couple: 'It seemed like the best thing to do'

    >>> we're back now at 7:43 with a kiss that is seen all around the world. the young couple appears to be locked in a passionate embrace. but it's in the middle of a riot.

    >> we're going to talk to them exclusively in just a moment. but first, the story behind the smooch. in the middle of the mayhem as thousands rioted in the streets following van koufer's loss in the stanley cup finals , torching cars, it is this image of the so-called riot romeo kissing his girlfriend that has captured worldwide attention.

    >> when we first saw it, it was funny.

    >> reporter: but scott jones and alexander thomas says their kiss wasn't a joke or a moment of passion even though their pose on the pavement does look a lot like the famous kiss from "here to eternity." here you can see what really happened. riot police running down scott and alexander has the couple tries to escape from danger.

    >> started beating was the shields, trying to get us to move. i don't know why. we weren't being aggressive towards them.

    >> reporter: alexander is knocked to the ground. a moment later scott lies beside her, comforting his girlfriend with a kiss. a split second captured by a camera.

    >> it's not embarrassing at all. it's actually a really beautiful shot.

    >> reporter: their kiss now joining other legendary lip locks. you must remember this a kiss is just a kiss but unlike any other smooch in history. scott jones and alex thomas is joining us exclusively. good morning to you.

    >> good day.

    >> good morning.

    >> scott , why did you decide at that moment to give her a big kiss given all that mayhem that was going on around you?

    >> yeah, well, that was on the video what happened. i was just trying to calm her down, you know. it was pretty scary for her. seemed like the best thing to do.

    >> i think i need to find out here, were you guys participating in some of the mischief or even worse that was taking place after that hockey game or were you simply peaceful bystanders caught in the wrong place at the wrong time?

    >> i would call myself a tourist. it was game seven, you know. stanley cup final. something was going to happen, whether we won or loss, something big. so 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 that --

    >> things changed really fast.

    >> never expected it to turn into that situation so quickly.

    >> alex , i --

    >> there's --

    >> alex , i understand you guys have only been dating for about six months, if i'm not mistaken. when you saw how he reacted, that he threw his body over to protect you. how do you now, when you think back and look at these images, what are your thoughts that go through your mind about that?

    >> well, that's exactly the reaction i would like to have. you know, it's good -- if you're going to be caught up with something, have someone with you when you're caught up in it. i would never have expected anything less. you know, we've had a great six months. so it's kind of amaze that there was somewhere there to take a photo of that and capture that. i would always know those feelings and emotions from that, but there's a photograph that so clearly shows it is just pretty incredible.

    >> he sounds like a keeper. no question about it, alex . but i will say, just quickly, what was your reaction when you started to hear people question whether this was a real photo or someone had photo shopped it and stuck it right in the middle of that riot?

    >> that only really haepd like in the first day or so, like before anybody knew any background of the video, of the shot. and i guess it was just such a good shot people couldn't believe that would happen. it was just like the perfect lighting, perfect focus. richard who took the photo said he didn't even know he took the photo when he did because the police were coming at him and pushing him down the street. he took a few shots because he saw somebody down there injured. he just wanted to capture it.

    >> it is a memorable, memorable image. more importantly, we're happy you two are all right. we thank you two for joining us, scott and alex .


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