Volunteers to ‘lend a sense of calm’ in Ghetto

Community members will act as buffer for Homecoming

Alumnus Vinni Rebelo is forming a citizen task force to patrol the Ghetto during Homecoming.
Alumnus Vinni Rebelo is forming a citizen task force to patrol the Ghetto during Homecoming.

A University alumnus is putting out a call for volunteers to walk the Ghetto on Homecoming weekend and act as a buffer between police and partying students.

Vinni Rebelo, a Kingston entrepreneur and manager of the Ambassador Hotel, said the idea came to him following last year’s unsanctioned street party, when more than 5,000 people crowded onto Aberdeen Street, and a car was flipped and set on fire.

“We’re going to try to get as many people out there on Homecoming weekend on Friday and Saturday–especially Saturday night on Aberdeen Street–just to lend a sense of calm out there,” Rebelo said, adding that the volunteers won’t be there to enforce the law.

Rebelo said he wants a volunteer group to mingle with partiers during Homecoming weekend to show students the community cares about their actions.

Rebelo said volunteers, wearing hats identifying themselves as community members, will encourage students to exchange glass beer bottles for plastic cups and offer to walk drunk students home.

“We want to talk with students and say, ‘We understand you want to have a good time ... but do it in an appropriate manner: respect the city, respect property, respect the University.”

Rebelo said he hopes to have 500 to 1,000 volunteers for the task force, and will continue to contact alumni and other community members, asking them to join.

He wants other alumni join the task force because they understand what it’s like to be a Queen’s student.

“Queen’s has been a factor in my life for many years, and the reputation of Queen’s and the reputation of Kingston is very important to myself and Queen’s alumni,” he said.

AMS President James Macmillan has joined the volunteer group, and said he hopes hundreds of students will do the same.

“I think it’s important that there’s some sort of presence there that’s going to be a positive example for how behaviour should be in the street that night,” he said, adding that he hopes the volunteers will decrease the animosity that built up between some party-goers and police during last year’s Homecoming.

“If a policeman sees a student doing something they don’t want them to do and it’s nothing violent or malicious, they can flag a volunteer over to tell them to stop,” he said. “Hopefully having peers and committee members will be less confrontational than having someone with a uniform and a badge do that.”

Floyd Patterson, city councillor for Sydenham Ward, which includes Aberdeen Street and much of the Ghetto, has also joined the task force.

“We’re not trying to be chaperones; we’re trying to be fellow adults ... who are representatives of the year-round community who want to join the group celebrating the start of their year.”

Sanjiv Kalevar, Comm ’07, said he’s happy to have people acting as a buffer between partiers and police.

“I’d be surprised if something like last year happens again,” he said, adding that the volunteers won’t be able to completely end any hostilities or damage done by smashed bottles.

“Maybe a little, but ... nothing can be done about the broken glass except to clean it up the next day.”

—With files from Matthew Trevisan

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