Alex Thomas and Scott Jones remember being knocked down by the riot officers’ shields, falling to the pavement on Seymour Street in Vancouver. It was June 2011, moments after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final on home ice to the Boston Bruins. The city was on fire.
Thomas remembers shaking with fear, as officers kicked them while they were on the ground in an effort to clear the street, until the police left to rejoin their formation as it moved to the next block.
Jones remembers looking down at Thomas, seeing that his girlfriend was “pretty hysterical” as they lay in the street, and knowing that he had to calm her down any way he could.
So he kissed her.
Photojournalist Richard Lam remembers seeing Thomas and Jones, and being drawn to the oddity of the image: The emptiness of what was usually a busy street, save for the couple in an embrace and the police officers in riot gear walking away from them. The tenderness of the moment, of love enduring in the midst of chaos.
None of the three will ever forget what happened next. The photo of Jones kissing Thomas going viral on a global scale, becoming the quintessential image from the Vancouver riot of June 15, 2011. The media frenzy to find out the identity of the couple. The accusations that the photo was staged. The appalling stories about Thomas and Jones that proliferated online, until they had to appear on international television to tell the real story.
They remember the fleeting fame, and infamy. Thomas and Jones remember it together 10 years later, having made a happy life in Perth, Australia, with an adorable 3-year-old daughter named Amy.
That’s right: The Vancouver Riot Kissing Couple is still very much a couple.
“We’ve put in a lot of work building our lives together since then. It’s just a piece of the backstory,” said Thomas. “We didn’t know what ‘going viral’ meant or anything like that. It was a bit weird having people interested in it.”