‘This is not a tradition’

5,000 partiers crammed Aberdeen Street Saturday night, overturning a car and smashing countless beer bottles.
5,000 partiers crammed Aberdeen Street Saturday night, overturning a car and smashing countless beer bottles.
Credit: 
Photos by Lukasz Rygielski and Katrina Ludlow
Around 11 p.m., revellers flipped a parked car and climbed on top. It was later set ablaze.
Around 11 p.m., revellers flipped a parked car and climbed on top. It was later set ablaze.
Photo: 

Around 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, George Hood, vice-principal (advancement), leans against a police cruiser stationed on William Street east of Aberdeen Street.

Donning a yellow baseball cap marked “Homecoming 2005 Volunteer,” he surveys the enormous mass of people gathered just metres away in the heart of the Ghetto.

Hundreds of intoxicated people pack the street, buzzing with activity.

Some sing ‘ole, ole,’ accompanied by a near-constant chorus of breaking glass. Some people snap photos or speak furiously into cell phones, appearing flustered and unsure of their surroundings. A number of people jump and sway atop a car that is flipped on its hood. Seconds later, one young man parades the car’s muffler—which has been torn from the car—up the street, then smashes it against the ground. Soon, the car is set on fire.

Hood shakes his head soberly.

“This is not exactly what we had in mind,” he tells the Journal. “This is not a tradition.”

By the time rain teemed down onto the street at daybreak, Kingston police said 35 people had been arrested, at least 225 tickets had been issued for liquor licence infractions and an incalculable number of verbal cautions had been given to partiers. Liquor licence infractions included charges for open alcohol, public intoxication and underage drinking.

Despite a concerted effort by the University, the AMS, Kingston Police, Kingston Fire and Rescue, Campus Security and other groups to prevent a large-scale street party of recent years from breaking out at the climax of Homecoming weekend, the “party” lived on.

“At the end of the day, everyone who was on Aberdeen thumbed their nose at the Kingston community and said they will do whatever they want, notwithstanding what the community would like and expect of reasonably intelligent and adult people,” said Insp. Brian Cookman, who oversaw the police presence for the weekend. He added the weekend likely cost the force at least $60,000 in overtime.

The heavy police presence began in the early evening, as approximately 115 police fanned out into the Ghetto in pairs, with staggered starting times as early as 5 p.m., Cookman said.

The presence included two mounted police, a number of marked and unmarked vehicles, two unmarked white vans to be used as a rest station, one unmarked van containing “equipment that is of a higher level of safety” and a paddy wagon, Cookman said.

He said he gave a 45-minute PowerPoint presentation to his officers before deployment.

“I told the officers that it would be the students who called the tune: if we [are] met with aggression, we will respond in kind,” Cookman said. “Our mission ... [was] to ensure a safe venue and a safe weekend for everyone ... as well as doing it with a minimal amount of force and doing it with professionalism.”

Police patrols and volunteers for Campus Security monitored the parties taking place on Aberdeen Street lawns and porches throughout the evening.

Director of Campus Security Dave Patterson said 35 volunteers from his group were out in the Ghetto, encouraging people to attend the concert and stay off the streets.

These and the police foot patrols, as well as the mounted police—using their horses to force people off of the street—kept Aberdeen Street passable until about 10:30 p.m.

At that point, people rushed onto the streets. Many partiers called to others to join in, yelling “Everybody get on the street—fuck the police.”

Within an hour, police had left the core and moved to the perimeters, forming blockades that at one count numbered about 17 officers on each of the north and south entrances of the streets. Cruisers and more police stationed themselves at the William Street and University Avenue entrances as well.

Cookman said both the sheer number of people—which he estimated to be at least 5,000—as well as the danger they posed prevented officers from entering the street.

“I cannot expect an officer who doesn’t even have so much as a hard hat on to try and walk through a crowd that thick, while bottles and everything else under the sun is being hurdled at them from second-story balconies,” he said.

While police attempted to keep people from trespassing through their lines and into the party contained inside, a Journal reporter was able to move in and out of the boundaries through an alley with ease throughout the night.

Around 11 p.m. a car that had been parked against the curb midway down the street early in the evening was flipped over several times by people in the crowd. The smell of gasoline filled the air shortly thereafter. Just before 1 a.m., the fire department moved into the street to inspect the vehicle, which was leaking fuel.

“There was really no safety problem at that point,” said Assistant Fire Chief Robert Kidd. “There was nothing more we could do for this vehicle because it was not burning at that point, so as the firefighters left the scene, that’s when the crowd converged and began climbing on the vehicle.”

Kidd added beer bottles were thrown at one of the fire trucks as firefighters attempted to survey the scene. He said about 14 firefighters with three different trucks were on the scene throughout the night.

Nearby, fireworks exploded into the night from atop a veranda. Later, people jumping on the car waved a small, uprooted tree in the air.

At the northwest corner of William at Aberdeen, a young man smiled and held up the stop sign he’d taken from the corner, then tried to hide it underneath his shirt.

Outside the police line at Aberdeen and Earl streets, the paddy wagon made trip after trip to the station with people who had been arrested. At one point, two men sat cuffed against the side of the Journal House, while another man lay face down on the gravel parking lot.

At the same time, some youths skillfully kicked a soccer ball back and forth on the street.

The fire department returned to the scene just after 2:30 a.m. to put out the car fire which had begun to burn about 10 minutes earlier. Students told the Journal that earlier, they had seen people smoking atop the car, and holding a lighter near the wheel well.

Kidd said people began to disperse at the sight of the fire. Cookman said police were able to clear the street simultaneously, emptying the area by about 3 a.m.

He said police started packing up at around 4 a.m.

“You go by the numbers on the street—it was quiet,” he said. The fire department entered the street one last time just after 4 a.m. to help clean up fuel that had leaked onto the street when the car was towed away.

Cookman said his officers experienced physical and verbal abuse throughout the night, including one officer who was “sucker-punched” in the head, but did not sustain any injuries.

Patterson said he also witnessed one person directing racial slurs at an officer.

“It’s not always the Queen’s student being the moron here,” Cookman said, “as attested to by the photo on the front page [of the Whig-Standard] that has tentatively been identified as a high school student.”

He said he couldn’t say how many of those arrested were Queen’s students.

“They’re under no obligation to tell us where they’re from,” he said.

Around one-third of partiers interviewed by the Journal said they were not Queen’s students.

Kidd said the fire department responded to problems in the Ghetto during the night in three different ways.

Kingston Fire and Rescue attended to about nine medical assist calls—all of which were alcohol-related—“a couple” of bonfires, and also assessed, monitored and then extinguished the car that had been flipped and set alight. Kidd said the vehicle fire was set deliberately and is now under criminal investigation.

Fire and Rescue also cleared out about four residences that were overcrowded during the night.

“There is no question that what occurred was hazardous ... but the real concern here [was that] our ability to respond to emergencies was severely impaired,” Kidd said. “The vehicle fire, had that been a dwelling unit in that area with people trapped, the delay in response could have been fatal.”

Paul Charbonneau, director of the emergency services division of Frontenac Paramedic Services, said his team responded to between 15 and 20 calls in the Aberdeen Street area starting at about 11 p.m.

“For some reason we received numerous calls for numerous injuries, and at that point the night went downhill,” he said. “At one point the ambulance was not able to get through to a call, it was beat upon by the crowd—people were rioting upon the ambulance, hitting on it with their fists.”

Charbonneau added that the Kingston General Hospital emergency room was “quite full” that evening and into the morning.

Cookman said the police actually began laying charges Friday night, much like the enforcement seen in the Ghetto during Orientation Week.

On Friday night, police laid 87 charges for liquor licence infractions, gave out 24 parking tickets and 10 tickets for highway traffic act violations and three tickets for littering, he said.

Cookman added that starting at about 10 a.m. on Saturday, police shut down four pancake keggers, charging 11 individuals at four residences with three offences each. He said the tickets could potentially cost the students $500 to $1,000.

Patterson said from 4 p.m. on Friday until 4 p.m. on Sunday, Campus Security generated 215 incident reports, of which 27 were medical assists calls and six of which required ambulance services for injuries ranging from a twisted ankle to intoxication.

Queen’s Health Educator Diane Nolting said the number of non-students dropped off at the Campus Observation Room (COR) reached an all-time high over the weekend.

“We had nine visitors on Friday and Saturday, which is a record,” she said. “We would normally get one or two, or maybe three at the most.”

Nolting added that two people were also referred to the hospital.

“From descriptions of their conditions, they were not eligible for service [at COR],” she said.

Nolting said COR in Victoria Hall opened at noon on Saturday, about 10 hours earlier than usual.

Queen’s and the Kingston community responded vigorously last year after approximately 5,000 people flooded Aberdeen Street on the Saturday night of last year’s Homecoming weekend.

Community residents vocalized their opposition to the weekend and other ongoing off-campus student behaviour, while Principal Karen Hitchcock established a task force to look at the problems and work to find solutions. Among the recommendations released this summer was a mandate to improve Homecoming.

—With files from Jennifer MacMillan

Voices from the Crowd

“They should just let it happen—it’s going to get worse in the end.”

—John Flood, Meds ’05

“Police brutality—I just saw a police [officer] run a student over with his horse, on purpose.”

—Jessie Singer, ArtSci ’08

“The more they try to crack down on Aberdeen, the more people are going to respond—it’s a challenge..”

—Craig Tedford, Law ’07

“I kind of like the cops, so far this evening they’ve been pretty good dudes. We’re polite to them and they’re not being anti-social.”

—Johnny Wright, ArtSci ’06

“[People] flipped over a car—that’s brutal. That’s over the top. I am all for coming to Aberdeen and getting drunk, but it’s over the top.”

—Brendan Haylock, ArtSci ’07

“I thought the police presence here this year was better than last year, but they could have put the fire out more quickly. I think the students need to call each other ... we need to have more respect for this community. Maybe we should only bring cans.”

—Dave Wellhauser, BEd ’06

“Aberdeen is why I came back to Kingston this weekend.”

—Steven Mitchelmore, Comm ’05

“This party’s amazing. I’ve never seen anything so ridiculous anywhere. Ever.”

—Sarah Caine, out-of-town visitor

“I wanted [to see] a streaker at the game, but I got tear gas at the party, so it was good.”

—Jane Tesar, third-year student at the University of Western Ontario

“It’s a hard situation on either end. I understand both sides. But the students lose trust in the authority figures.”

—Laura Stefaniewicz, ArtSci ’07

“I think [the concert is] a really good idea, a lot of people are into it and it’s safer—except for the moshing. I’d prefer if next year it wasn’t a punk band.”

—Claire Chesnais, ArtSci ’07

“I think [this party] makes a bad name for Queen’s.”

—Alethea Weir, ArtSci ’05

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