Despite larger crowd & 58 arrests, AMS president calls party outcome ‘a first step’

Police arrest a man for attempting to knock over a barrier.
Police arrest a man for attempting to knock over a barrier.
Photo: 

Saturday night’s Aberdeen Street homecoming party drew more than 8,000 people—a larger crowd than last year’s bash when students flipped over a car and set it on fire—but the overall mood was safer and less hostile than 2005.

AMS President James Macmillan thanked the police, the paramedics and the volunteer taskforce during a press conference yesterday.

“This [volunteer] initiative I’m particularly proud of, because it did make a big difference,” he said. “It helped to facilitate a positive atmosphere on the street.”

Macmillan said this has been a learning experience, and that all parties involved will continue to look at ways to make the event safer.

“This is a first step, it’s not a last step,” he said. “I think that, obviously, we need to sit down with everyone at the table. As we hear more from them and as they hear more from us, we’ll have a better idea of what to work on.”

Police made 58 arrests and handed out 237 tickets between 7 a.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday.

Macmillan told the Journal that one person may have been tasered by police. He said Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane told him before the press conference that he received the information from police.

There was no mention of Taser use in a Kingston Police statement released yesterday and Kingston Police Staff Sgt. Brian Flemming refused to comment.

Deane couldn’t be reached at press time.

Const. Neil Finn surveyed the street party from the police’s video surveillance unit on Saturday night until the street deserted on Sunday morning.

“Ninety-nine per cent of students have been cordial,” he said. “This is actually quite good from a police perspective … we have nothing but kudos for the people who’ve helped out.”

Several safety precautions were taken this year to minimize the public safety hazards presented by the street party.

In addition to volunteers handing out plastic cups and water bottles, brighter streetlights were installed the week before on Aberdeen Street, and a first aid tent was set up, staffed by volunteers from St. John’s Ambulance.

Mark Curtis, ArtSci ’07, said the atmosphere this year was better than at last year’s street party.

“The cops are definitely more friendly,” he said. “I think the cops’ mentality last year was too hard-core. This year, they’re more friendly and it’s rubbing off on the students … I’ve been shaking police officers’ hands.”

Curtis said he also liked what the volunteers were doing.

“The plastic cup idea was awesome,” he said. “You don’t hear the sound of shattering glass, you hear the cracking of plastic cups.” Drunken partiers sat on each other’s shoulders, perched on balconies, rooftops and tried to climb trees, singing “Olé, olé, olé.” Students shot fireworks from balconies, from lawns and from the middle of the street.

Around 2 a.m., as the throngs of partiers increased, Kingston Police and OPP officers formed a wall on the corner of Aberdeen and Johnson streets to prevent the party from spilling out on Johnson Street and blocking traffic.

Kingston Police Sergeant Alex Forsyth said police were trying to keep things safe.

“The volunteers have done a great job of removing the glass.”

Nelson Craig, St. John’s Ambulance first responder, said he and the other volunteers were kept busy with minor injuries, such as cut fingers and feet, for most of the night.

“A lot of the students that are here realize that we’re volunteers. Most of them are really good … we get a lot of respect,” he said, adding that by treating minor injuries, the first responders took pressure off Kingston paramedics.

Paul Charbonneau, director of emergency services for the Frontenac Paramedic Services, spoke to the Journal by phone at 11:20 p.m. and said paramedics had by that time treated 10-12 people in the vicinity of Aberdeen Street.

He said paramedics were working with emergency services to ensure that if ambulance and paramedics were needed on Aberdeen Street, they would be able to get through the crowd.

“We’re set up at the four quadrants surrounding Aberdeen,” he said. “With police assistance we move into the street and extricate the person to one of our four stations.” He said that despite the congestion of the street, paramedics were having “no trouble” getting through the crowds of people on Aberdeen to reach people in need.

“Everybody seems to be accepting of the paramedics,” he said.

Throughout the night, students were dangling from the roofs of houses and people were hoisted up on each other’s shoulders to see what was happening through the crowded street.

Jeff Ingratta, a fourth-year biology student from Ottawa University, said he attended Queen’s Homecoming for the past four years.

“This year is much safer. There’s the first aid tent over there, and the volunteers walking around. It’s better, it’s safer, and it’s still a great time,” he said.

Vice-Principal Deane surveyed the scene around 10 p.m.

“So far, it’s looking very peaceful and very orderly. It’s very good to see the volunteers and the police and the students talking,” he said, adding that he wasn’t worried about the large number of people on the street.

“The number isn’t so much a problem as the way people behave.”

Mayor Harvey Rosen also made an appearance beside the volunteer tent, where he was greeted by several partiers.

Rosen said he thought the event was going well.

“I think it’s great—a fun, safe place for the students to celebrate,” he said. “It seems to be controlled chaos.”

Andrew Cooke, ArtSci ’06, said he returned to Aberdeen this year out of curiosity.

“I wanted to see if there would be a riot,” he said. “It’s not confrontational though, it’s friendly. Closing the street was a good idea because then students don’t feel like they’re obstructing traffic and everyone is more relaxed.”

It wasn’t only the students who were enjoying themselves. Jim Rose, Arts ’70, was clad in tricolour from head to toe and came to Aberdeen Street with his wife.

“I think it’s wonderful this year—full of spirit. I don’t ever remember a Homecoming like this—there was never anything to this extent since I’ve been here,” he said, adding that his son was volunteering that night. “I just hope the lid doesn’t come off.”

Rob Yarnell, Sci ’81, said he thought the event was going well.

“I haven’t heard any bottles breaking, so they got that right,” he said. “I think it’s a perfect solution: keep it controlled, keep it fun.”

—With files from Lisa Jemison, Brendan Kennedy, Katherine Laidlaw, Florence Li, Joanna Nicholson, Janet Shulist, Matthew Trevisan and Gillian Wheatley

Word on the street

“All I saw there was a great big bottle of ginger ale and they needed some cups. What else do I need to know?”

—Floyd Patterson,
Aberdeen Street volunteer and city councillor

“We came to see shit get fucked up. Less shit has been fucked up than I would have thought.”

—Aaron Rosenwald,
McGill student

“I do it every year. It’s a shit show. There’s no better party,”

—Jeff Ingratta,
University of Ottawa student

“It seems to be controlled chaos.”

—Harvey Rosen, mayor

“It’s where everybody goes, and it’s the place to be. We’ve just been walking back and forth, making friends.”

—Katie Walton,
ArtSci ’09

“We’re survivors of the University Avenue street parties of the ’70s. They’d go from Clergy to William … every decade it changes.”

—David Weishuhn, Sci ’80

“The media, throughout the year, has made Homecoming such a huge deal. I hope [this year] there’s more of a positive light being shed on the initiatives being put in place … to make Homecoming a more positive atmosphere.”

—Taylor Shields, Comm ’07

“This is the third year where the police are unwilling or unable to enforce the law,” he said. “They need a kick in the pants.”

—Don Rogers,
Kingston resident

“They allow things you would never allow in Ottawa. As long as people don’t do the same dumb shit as they did last year, it’s all good.”

—Nick Bertrand,
University of Ottawa student

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