Recklessness, defiance in University District on Homecoming Weekend

With the 180th anniversary of Queen’s University as well as the second fully-virtual Homecoming taking place, Saturday, Oct. 16 2021 should have been a day of positive celebration for the university community.

Unfortunately, the “celebrations” that took place in the streets of the University District overshadowed the weekend, with street blockages, extreme contravention of pandemic gathering restrictions, and occasional eruptions of violent aggression from some attendees.

These acts of aggression included threats made against police officers, an officer being injured as she attempted to detain a non-compliant and aggressive party-goer, and multiple revelers jumping on police vehicles.

Other risky behaviours including drinking on rooftops, jumping from balconies, scaling the outside of buildings, and a large amount of broken glass and garbage being strewn on the streets and sidewalks, created an extremely unsafe environment for those attending.

In total, an estimated 200 officers from multiple police forces were present throughout the weekend. In addition to an “all hands on deck” response from Kingston Police officers, this also consisted of officers from Durham Police, an offender transport unit from Brockville Police, and OPP officers from various detachments throughout the Eastern Region, including the OPP’s heavily-equipped Public Order Unit.

While the policing costs over this weekend will not be known immediately, they will almost certainly eclipse the approximately $125,000 that Kingston Police estimated was spent on policing the University District in September.

A male is arrested after climbing onto the rooftop of a house in the University District on Saturday.

Leading up to the weekend, Queen’s Principal Patrick Deane sent appeals to the student body to conduct themselves safely and respectfully. In an open letter posted to the Queen’s website on Thursday, Oct. 14, which was also emailed directly to students, Principal Deane entreated, “I am asking for your assistance in helping contain the social gatherings and to act responsibly over the coming weekends. Being fully vaccinated is not a pass to ignore Ontario’s gathering limits (social gatherings up to 100 people outdoors or up to 25 people indoors). As members of both the Queen’s and Kingston community, we all must demonstrate leadership, respect one another and be mindful and aware of the provincial laws and local bylaws that are in place to protect us.”

Police officers observe the large gathering at Aberdeen and William St.

Friday’s relatively subdued student gatherings, aided in large part by the rainy weather, gave officials a false sense that this appeal may have been heeded.

However, on Saturday, even before the streets filled with people, there were already early indicators of defiance, including a sign hung on one William St residence goading bylaw officers to “add (the fine) to their tab.”

The situation quickly escalated into one of the largest and most chaotic gatherings that has been seen in the streets of the University District.

Residents of one particular house on William St seemed unfazed by the prospect of large fines being issued as part of the University District Safety Initiative.

At around 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, Bylaw Officers from the City of Kingston began blocking off Aberdeen Street and William Street, to assist officers in containing the large and growing unlawful gatherings on the streets, sidewalks, and yards.

At around 4:30 p.m., those two streets were officially declared an Aggravated Nuisance Party under the Mayor’s Emergency Order. Several warnings were issued to revelers by police, in which they were ordered to disperse or else face liability to a $2,000 Administrative Monetary Penalty.

However, despite these warnings, very few partiers left, and many laughed openly at the announcements.

About two dozen partiers on a rooftop at the corner of Aberdeen and William St.

By around 5:30 p.m., after multiple such warnings, police officers, including a large contingent of the OPP’s Public Order Unit wearing full riot gear, marched down Aberdeen Street and quickly cleared the area.

The OPP’s Public Order Unit prepare to clear Aberdeen St after the declaration that the large gathering was an Aggravated Nuisance Party.

Aberdeen Street stayed clear of partiers for the rest of the early evening, but remained unsafe for vehicular traffic due to broken glass and debris until City of Kingston crews arrived to clean the streets at around 7:00 p.m.

City of Kingston crews clean Aberdeen St following the first of two aggravated nuisance parties in the University District on Saturday.

Large gatherings assembled again at around 10:00 p.m., this time clustering around the intersection of Johnson Street and University Avenue. By this point, the dynamic had changed significantly, and a highly-volatile environment developed.

Several partiers attempted to fight police as the officers attempted to keep the roadways clear. Kingston Police was eventually forced to close Johnson Street temporarily, until a second Aggravated Nuisance Party declaration was made regarding the new gathering at around 11:00 p.m.

Police attempt to clear Johnson St of party-goers.

Once that declaration was made, the OPP once again marched through the crowds, compelling them south down University Avenue past Earl Street. The crowd eventually dispersed at Union Street, but began to regroup and head north.

The regrouped gathering congregated in Victoria Park, on the north side of Brock Street. While this meant they were off the streets, the darkness and the volume of people present still created an unsafe environment rife with risk of injury and assault.

Thousands of partiers remained at Victoria Park, setting off fireworks, drinking alcohol, playing loud music, and shining lasers until about 2:30 a.m. until police moved in to disperse the crowd for good.

Police control the intersection at Johnson and University after clearing the roadway of partiers.

In a statement on the morning of Sunday, October 17, Principal Patrick Deane noted that he feels “extreme disappointment”.

“Despite the extraordinary efforts of our staff, student leaders, security, City officials, Kingston Police and emergency services,” Principal Deane acknowledged, “…[t]housands of people gathered throughout the day and night, ignoring the law and showing little or no respect or care for others. We very much appreciate the work of the Kingston Police and OPP who demonstrated restraint and acted with professionalism to try to manage the crowds, and we acknowledge the concerns of the community members—including our own alumni—who have expressed outrage and frustration over the behaviour they witnessed last night… Today we will be assessing the damage to our campus and the surrounding neighborhoods, working with student volunteers to clean up, and speaking with the City and local Police.”

Fireworks being set off above thousands of partiers at Victoria Park.

With all of this year’s Homecoming events taking place virtually, no Queen’s alumni had been invited back physically to Kingston to celebrate their reunions. However, many people at these street parties openly self-identified as being from out of town, and often with no connection to Kingston or the Queen’s community. One person was heard attempting to defend their entire group of attendees to police officers by stating, “We’re not from Queen’s, we’re from Ottawa, just here for one night of partying.”

A smashed windshield of a car parked near Victoria Park.

Principal Deane also noted in his statement that this is symptomatic of a broader cultural issue at play, stating that “the last twenty-four hours have seen our community seriously disrupted by the reckless behaviour of some of our students, as well as by other individuals who came here for the sole purpose of causing trouble… We are discouraged by what we are seeing across the province with large parties of students in Hamilton, London, Waterloo and Ottawa with similar outcomes and individuals who travel to each as a rite of passage. We know the last few years have been a struggle for young people, but such behaviour is dangerous, irresponsible, and ultimately inexcusable.”

9 thoughts on “Recklessness, defiance in University District on Homecoming Weekend

  • Principal Patrick Deane representing Queen’s should pay for the cost of the police and he should have cancelled the festivities online and in the community. He lacks leadership. These students who participated in the gatherings should be suspended.

  • Hope queens will fork out another cheque for the damages, might want to start expelling students identified. Will be cheaper in the long run…

  • It would be interesting to hear the students point of view. Why they thought it would be OK, to gather against a by-law, a strong police presents in a pandemic. As not everyone there was an out of town rebel rouser.

  • I don’t think anything unfortunately is going to stop these people who are destroying Kingston property and disturbing residents. I imagine that something will eventually stop it but I wish I had the answer to what that is. Since this started I have always said: close down Queen’s University forever. We would survive and we’d get back a lot of our buildings that Queen’s buys up as soon as they are vacant and then doesn’t pay taxes on them.

  • Imagine the impact that 8000 young people could have if they gathered to protest corporate greed, delayed climate change policies or action on the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation report.

  • déjà vu all over again?

    Principal Deane also noted in his statement that this is symptomatic of a broader cultural issue at play,
    We know the last few years have been a struggle for young people, but such behaviour is dangerous, irresponsible, and ultimately inexcusable.”

    I asked this question a couple of days back. Are there no adult leaders at and/or managing Queen’s ? A student’s point of view is important and deserves attention – but – it is a point of view built on the benefits of little experience and lots of hormones.

    Please Dean(e) , act on Principle

  • Kingstonist, can you investigate whether there is real judicial outcome from these fines? “@bylaw add it to our tab” shows a smug indifference, but I’ve seen other indications that these fines have no teeth. Let’s not kid ourselves that there is real deterrent, if the reality is that no real financial or criminal penalty ensues. Some of these kids may have very fancy lawyers bargaining these charges away.

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