Volunteers manage to keep street virtually glass-free

Municipal Affairs Commissioner Ryan Quinlan-Keech cleans up discarded cups on Aberdeen Street early Sunday morning.
Municipal Affairs Commissioner Ryan Quinlan-Keech cleans up discarded cups on Aberdeen Street early Sunday morning.
Canadian Action Party member and Kingston resident Don Rogers protests police inaction.
Canadian Action Party member and Kingston resident Don Rogers protests police inaction.

They wore red hats and glowstick necklaces. They traded plastic cups for glass bottles. They gave out free popcorn.

Several of them were still on Aberdeen Street early Sunday morning at 5 a.m., cleaning discarded cups and bottles.

All of them played a role in helping smooth relations between party-goers and police.

At 1 a.m., Vinni Rebelo, the University alumnus who organized the 400-strong volunteer taskforce, said the team’s work was going better than expected.

“Our goal was to be a calming force … I think we’ve accomplished that,” he said. “We’ve mended some fences.”

The teams kept almost all glass off the street, Rebelo said, and handed out almost 2,400 bottles of water.

Fred Siemonsen, Sci ’54, was one of the community, student and alumni volunteers who patrolled Aberdeen Street and the surrounding area.

“It gives us a chance to talk to the kids, try to ask them to be responsible. For the most part, everybody’s been super-polite … I was here last year and it was a much different, much different thing,” he said. “We’re optimistic.”

Siemonsen said he chose to volunteer because he felt alumni in his year were distancing themselves from the University.

“A couple of guys made it very clear that they had already stopped their donations, and one guy said, ‘I’ve taken Queen’s University out of my will as a bequest.’ So it was pretty apparent to me that the alumni were quite pissed off, and the community was pissed off,” he said. “That was my motivation.”

Siemonsen said the street party differed from the Homecoming parties when he was a student.

“We didn’t have any street parties—-at least, it wasn’t fixed like this. We’d often go downtown and have a big snake dance or whatever they used to call them.”

Many students walked up to the volunteers and lauded their activities. On one occasion, spontaneous applause broke out when volunteers were cleaning up debris on the street.

Will Eagen, ArtSci ’05, said he appreciated stepping on plastic glasses and water bottles as opposed to glass.

“The [volunteer] taskforce is a good idea,” he said. “There’s no glass at all this year, which is good because last year my shoes were all cut up with broken glass. It’s nice to be able to walk without having to worry about getting cut.”

Several student government leaders volunteered well into the morning, and helped shovel the street’s garbage.

Ian Black, VP (operations), said the night was going well.

“People have been receptive to the plastic cups,” he said. “Things have been relatively safe.”

Black said he hadn’t been bothered by any students. “We worried that people from other schools wouldn’t be receptive, but things are really good.” Megan Teuber, VP (university affairs) was also working as a volunteer and said the evening was going smoothly.

“It has been absolutely great,” she said. “We really can’t complain.

“You are going to get the couple in every crowd who aren’t happy about giving up their beer bottles, but overall it’s been good.”

Peter Burbidge, Arts ’65, said he hoped by volunteering he could help diffuse tensions and lessen property damage.

“I’m hoping to see an end to a major problem, primarily damage to the streets, yards and people,” he said. “This year, it seems calmer and students are going about things in a safer fashion.”

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, volunteer and ArtSci ’07, was also one of the Aberdeen Street Community Volunteers. He is also running for city council.

He said going into the night he was a little worried about how partiers were going to treat the volunteers, but was impressed by how well they were received.

“People love the volunteers,” he said. “I’ve had so many ‘thank-you’s, ranging from random people coming up and simply saying thanks, to whole groups of people saying, ‘Chug your beers for the volunteers!’” 

Jane Thelwell, volunteer and Sci ’87, said she was surprised at the number of partiers on the street during her three-hour shift.

“We’re handing out water and just chatting. We’re like the old grandmother who comes up to you and asks, ‘Are you having a good time, dear?’”, she said.

Sadura Healey said the students have been coming up themselves and exchanging their bottles for cups, and even those from out of town had been friendly.

“The students are really thanking us. They’re all cooperative,” she said. “It’s a nice way to integrate the Queen’s community and the community around.”

—With files from Lisa Jemison, Brendan Kennedy, Katherine Laidlaw, Joanna Nicholson, Anna Mehler Paperny and Gillian Wheatley

Word on the street

“There is a diminishment of tension between the police and students. Things have been going as planned … Hopefully we'll wake up on Sunday and we'll have another Homecoming behind us without a lot of to-do.”

—Harvey Rosen, mayor

“Most [of the students] have been appreciative that the alumni have come out. Up until now it has been positive; hopefully it will stay
that way.”

—Carol Ann Budd, Sci ’89

“I'm really impressed that when we go to students with cups they automatically exchange their bottles—there's no hesitation.”

—Stephanie Ramsden, AMS Internal Affairs Commissioner

“I've had a lot of young people tell me that what we're doing is
really great.”

—Kathleen Rivera, MSc ’85

“I’ve come to Aberdeen for the past three years because it’s a great party,” he said. “It’s pretty much the same this year except for the tent in the middle of the street.”

—Kartik Said, University of Ottawa student

Homecoming by the numbers

• Arrests: 58

• Arrests for being drunk in a public place: 42

• Arrests for breach of the peace: 13

• Criminal charges: 7

• Police assault charges: 2

• Resisting arrest: 1

• Calls relating to Homecoming: 216

• Noise complaints: 61

• Tickets issued for violations to Liquor Licence Act: 223

• Tickets issued for other offences: 14

• People on Aberdeen Street: Approximately 8,000

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