Community’s ‘tolerance has run out’

Two students are banned from city after April 30 street party

Standing on his Aberdeen Street doorstep just down the street from where a patch of soot marked the location where a couch burned in the early hours of April 30, Bernty Isopp, ArtSci ’07, explained why he thinks some residents of Aberdeen behave the way they do.

“[Residents who destruct property] just want to live up to the stereotype: ‘Yeah, I live on this street, I do a lot of shit and I’m cool because of it,’” he said.

Isopp’s housemate, Chandler Burton, ArtSci ’07, chimed in.

“I think [young, irresponsible] people really like breaking the rules,” he said.

It’s that attitude from some Aberdeen residents that has Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane concerned.

Deane told the Journal that the reaction following an Aberdeen Street party on April 30 is a sign that the Kingston community has lost its patience with students. “That makes me concerned about Homecoming next year, because if tolerance has run out in the community so much so that this party can be described as ‘Anarchy on Aberdeen’ and a ‘near riot,’ even though the difference between the number [of people] involved here and the number last fall is 6,700, that tells you something about the way in which the community is now perceiving student partying,” he said.

“It’s not to denigrate the position of the community—because I can understand why people’s patience has run out—but nevertheless, it’s worrying.” Dean of Business David Saunders was one of seven deans that moved a motion calling for the student-run discipline system to be removed and placed in the hands of the principal. He said Queen’s alumni approached him in England earlier this month about the April 30 incident on Aberdeen Street.

“There’s a line, and it’s got past that line,” Saunders said, adding that the reputation of all Queen’s students and alumni is suffering because of the actions of a small minority of students.

In the early morning of April 30, Kingston Police told the Kingston Whig-Standard that 300 students from two parties on Aberdeen Street spilled out on the street.

Dubbed “Anarchy on Aberdeen” in the May 1 issue of the Whig, the street party included students smashing bottles, setting a couch on fire and destroying a derelict boat that was used for an April Fool’s joke, police said in the article.

Police arrested six males, three of whom were banned from the city until their court proceedings, the Whig reported. Two of the banned males were Queen’s students, who were originally barred from attending their graduation ceremony; a justice of the peace later granted them permission to attend.

The two students, Matt O’Leary and Fraser Mackenzie, will appear in court on June 13.

Insp. Brian Cookman didn’t return the Journal’s phone calls, but told the Whig that he’s wasted the last 18 months of his life trying to work toward a solution to the Homecoming problem.

On Sept. 24, 2005, police said 5,000 to 7,000 people filled Aberdeen Street; some people smashed bottles and a group of people overturned a car and set it on fire.

“The way I feel, I might as well have been using that time to come up with zero-tolerance tactics to police these events,” Cookman told the Whig. “If students want to take that as a challenge, well, so be it.”

In the week following the incident, Const. Neil Finn told the Journal that Chief Bill Closs told his officers that they weren’t allowed to comment about events on Aberdeen or about the police’s preparations for Homecoming weekend taking place from Sept. 14 to 16.

“Last year, whenever we did say something, too often it was written about, or editorialized that we were challenging or inflaming the situation,” Closs said. “[This time] we’ll keep our mouths shut as best as possible.”

Closs said that on April 30, the on-duty staff sergeant in charge of releasing the arrested students didn’t seek prior legal advice when deciding to ban the two Queen’s students and another 18-year-old male.

“We’ve used the tool quite often,” Closs said, declining to give the specific number of times the force banned people from the city.

He said that if people don’t like the law, they should fight it in court. But as long as the law exists, the force will use “whatever avenues legally available to us to protect citizens.”

Deane and several students who spoke to the Journal said it’s important to keep the two Aberdeen incidents of the past year separate.

“That was not the Aberdeen riot,” Deane said. “You have to be really careful about what you construe about the bigger problem from this particular instance. The smaller [incident] isn’t necessarily a sign that we’re not making progress with the bigger problem.

“If you were to look at the events of this past weekend outside of the context of Aberdeen … you’d say it’s unacceptable behaviour, but you would say it’s understandable as an end-of-term thing. It’s different when the context is Queen’s and Kingston and the big defining event of the last 12 months is the Homecoming street party,” he said.

Principal Karen Hitchcock said it’s hard to know what happened in the early morning of April 30, unless you were there.

“I think the press was overblown; it was needlessly inflammatory,” Hitchcock said. “That does not in any way diminish, in my mind, the seriousness of that kind of event, insofar as Queen’s students were involved.”

Isopp said 100 to 150 people—not 300 people, as police reported—attended the April 30 party where “some jerks lit a couch on fire.” Closs said the police continue to trust and believe the University and its students will find some way to have a safe and lawful Homecoming.

“I’m hoping that the [majority of students] will apply influence and peer pressure [to the minority of students who cause trouble] so [the minority of] students won’t cause havoc,” he said.

AMS President James Macmillan said he is planning to research three variations on a licensed street festival in attempt to prevent last year’s incidents from occurring again.

“Only through partnership will we get things resolved.”

With files from Anna Mehler Paperny and Brendan Kennedy

Why do students set things on fire?

“These are actions that can injure not only the people involved in setting the fire but anyone nearby, and to me it’s totally inappropriate. Why someone would do this can range from attention-getting to loss of judgment because of impaired mental status due to drinking, but the issue is that one will never know why any particular individual carried out any particular act, and that is why our code of conduct is so important.”

—Principal Karen Hitchcock

“When people are drinking—especially a little it too much—their quality of decision-making decreases. When you’ve got twenty-five to fifty students doing the same thing, they’re over-exuberant, and somehow believe they’re anonymous in a group. … You’re caught up in doing something spontaneously.”

—Kingston Police Chief Bill Closs

“Cigarette smoking and partying are probably the … underlying things. ... This stuff happening off campus is not surprising because students can do what they want and they’re not concerned about the rules.”

—Sherri Mackay, Provincial Director, TAPP-C (The Arson Prevention Program for Children) Program and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Psychologist

“It’s not logical but it’s not a new thing. I don’t think it’s right but I don’t have any explanations for it.”

—AMS President James Macmillan

“It was an end-of-year party where students did something stupid. … [There are] lapses in judgment—their brief, small, momentary, but they lead to doing something stupid.”

—EngSoc President Connor Langford and Aberdeen Street resident

“It’s a pretty crummy street; people don’t care. … If it’s your parents’ house and you throw a bottle in your driveway, [you say], ‘oh, I should clean that up.’ … Who wants to be that guy [who tells people not to set things on fire]? … They just want to live up to the stereotype—‘yeah, I live on this street, I do a lot of shit and I’m cool because of it.”

—Bernty Isopp, ArtSci ’07 and Aberdeen Street resident

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