‘Homecoming lite’

Tamer crowds flip boat, spray fire retardant on Aberdeen

Two partiers take a detour for a refill on Aberdeen Street Saturday night. Police estimate between 4,000 and 6,500 people were on the street that night.
Two partiers take a detour for a refill on Aberdeen Street Saturday night. Police estimate between 4,000 and 6,500 people were on the street that night.
Photo: 
A partier rides on top of a friend’s shoulders on Aberdeen Street.
A partier rides on top of a friend’s shoulders on Aberdeen Street.
Photo: 

The closest Saturday night came to the infamous Homecoming 2005 Aberdeen Street Party was at about 11:20 p.m., when several people dragged a yellow sailboat, minus its sail, out from an Aberdeen Street backyard.

They carried it over to the corner of Aberdeen and Earl streets and flipped it upside down on the ground to chants of “Flip the boat! Flip the boat!” About 20 people jumped up and down on the underside of the boat, singing, “Olé, olé olé olé.”

When it appeared the beat-up hull was going to collapse under their weight, however, they clambered down.

The boat ended up inside the fenced-off Queen’s Centre construction site off of Earl Street.

“[The boat] was probably stolen from someone’s backyard,” said AMS Vice-President (University Affairs) Julia Mitchell, who was nearby when the boat was flipped.

She said the theft probably wasn’t a big deal.

“It wouldn’t even work as a boat—there was a hole in it.”

Between Friday evening and early Saturday morning, more than 200 police officers from the Ontario Provincial Police’s public order unit, the Toronto Police’s public order unit and the Kingston police patrolled the Ghetto.

They made 54 arrests over the weekend relating to Aberdeen and Homecoming. All but three of the arrests were for public intoxication; the rest were for impaired driving, mischief to property and assault.

Kingston police officer Jeff Graham was on Johnson Street since 6:30 p.m.

He said patrolling a student party doesn’t bother him.

“There’ve been lots of high fives and handshakes so far. … I’m pretty young, eh, so it doesn’t bother me.”

Kingston Police Insp. Brian Cookman said there were fewer arrests and charges laid this year compared to last year’s Homecoming. The crowd dwindled from an estimated 8,000 last year to about 6,500 at the party’s peak, Cookman said.

“I think we’ve made some progress this year,” he said. “I’m not sure everyone wants to see this event happen.”

Jeff Brown, AMS social issues commissioner, was a volunteer on Aberdeen Street on Saturday night.

“A majority [of students] are overwhelmingly co-operative,” Brown said. “We see people switch bottles for cups as a house or a whole group.”

Even “The Mansion,” the house at 386 Johnson Street notorious for its parties, was toeing the line.

Cam MacNeil, Comm ’09 and resident at 386 Johnson, said the AMS and fire marshal visited the house earlier in the week to talk about liability issues and told them to move the car out of the parking lot and keep people off their porch on Saturday night.

“We co-operated fully,” he said.

MacNeil said large groups of people stormed the porch trying to get into the house and up onto the balcony, leaving him with shallow cuts on his cheek and forehead.

“[Someone] tried to force his way in and I pushed him off and he threw a punch.”

Keith Morrison, Sci ’82, said he thinks Homecoming has become too regimented.

“It’s too controlled—too many cops, too many rules, not enough alcohol,” he said. “It’s like Homecoming lite.”

Ian Dick, ArtSci ’08, said he has been to eight Homecomings in the eight years he has been working on his undergraduate degree.

“I am having fun but honestly, I’m conflicted,” he said. “I’ve read all the articles about it. I’m really actually kind of pissed off.”

Dick said Kingston should be happy about the revenue Homecoming weekend brings.

“The joke is on Kingston,” he said. “Think the Beer Store is poor after this weekend? Think the LCBO is sitting thinking, ‘We lost money’? No.”

“Red Hat” volunteers, wearing inconspicuous navy blue caps, pushed their way through the crowd, offering free water bottles to anyone they could reach. Crushed red plastic cups littered the street and sidewalk, evidence of the volunteers’ attempt to encourage partiers to exchange their beer bottles for plastic red cups.

People moved on and off Aberdeen Street in waves, spilling over onto surrounding streets. Standing shoulder to shoulder, Ontario Provincial Police officers lined Johnson Street, keeping partiers off the street and encouraging them to stay on the sidewalk and keep moving.

Shortly after 11 p.m., a fight broke out between two men on Johnson Street. As quickly as a crowd formed around them, chanting for a fight, the police officers moved in to separate the individuals and keep the crowd at bay. At least one of the individuals involved was arrested.

The crowd was thickest at the junction of Aberdeen and William streets, where people had to link arms to pull themselves and their friends through the dense crowd.

On either end of the street, near Johnson Street and Earl Street, the crowd was more dispersed.

At about 12:15 a.m. someone climbed onto the roof of a shed in between houses at 8 Aberdeen St. and 10 Aberdeen St. and started spraying a fire extinguisher onto the street. The fire retardant’s powder got into the eyes and throats of people on Aberdeen Street, sending them scattering.

Kingston Police Const. Neil Finn said the powder wasn’t a health hazard.

Around 2 a.m. Finn said the night was going well.

“A high majority of charges are alcohol-related. Apparently it’s average for what it was this time last year.”

Finn said one student was arrested for throwing beer bottles at an officer.

By the end of the night, Nancy Hughes, superintendent of St. John’s Ambulance’s safety and care division said the volunteers had seen 12 casualties, a marked drop from last year’s 33. Hughes attributed the drop to the weather.

“Last year was warmer—a lot of people wore flip flops,” she said. “But this year they’re wearing clothes and shoes. Last year we’ve treated a lot of cut people. This year we haven’t had that problem.”

By about 2:15 a.m. the street began to clear out. As the throngs of partiers thinned, police walked up and down Aberdeen Street, telling people to get off the street and onto the sidewalk. Meanwhile, the Aberdeen volunteers cleared off the plastic bottles, cups and some glass that littered the pavement, sidewalk and lawns.

AMS President Kingsley Chak said he and other volunteers were on the street until 5 a.m.

cleaning up.

Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said he was pleased with the way the night unfolded.

“I’m really gratified at the outcome,” he told the Journal Sunday morning. “I think it shows real progress from last year.”

The colder weather played a role in deterring partiers, he said, but it wasn’t the only factor in the night’s relative success.

“I wouldn’t want to put down the way the event played out solely to the weather.” Deane commended both the AMS and the police for the smoothness of the night.

“I think it also confirms the wisdom of the partnership approach we’ve taken.”

He said it’s too soon to tell whether cancellation or postponement of Homecoming are possibilities, but the University may continue to hold the event in October becuase of the cooler weather.

“An illegal street party is not something I want to see continue. On the other hand, I have heard talk of a festival run by the city,” he said. “The party as it’s happening would have to be much smaller, much more controlled and it could conceivably be something that could be institutionalized.”

Deane said the collaboration between the University, the AMS and the police bodes well for the future.

“The thing I’m most pleased about this year is that the cooperative approach worked,” he said. “It’s encouraging, for sure.”

—With files from Andrew Bucholtz, Eric Davis, Gloria Er-Chua, Erin Flegg, Angela Hickman, Lisa Jemison, Rosel Kim, Katherine Laidlaw and Charlotte Yun

Anatomy of Homecoming

7 p.m. Aberdeen Street volunteers and police officers outnumber partiers on the street.

8:30 p.m. A hypnotist sets up shop on the street, but is disappointed by his inebriated and relatively unappreciative audience. He leaves shortly afterwards.

10 p.m. Partiers head onto Aberdeen Street in droves from all corners of the Ghetto, campus and beyond.

11 p.m. A fight breaks out between two men on Johnson Street. Police get through the crowd to break up the fight, and at least one of the men involved is arrested.

11:22 p.m. Several partiers drag a sail-less sailboat to the corner of Earl and Aberdeen streets and flip it over. About 20 people jump up and down on the boat for a couple of minutes, but got off when the vessel seemed in danger of breaking.

12:15 a.m. Someone sprays a fire extinguisher onto the street from a shed between 8 Aberdeen St. and 10 Aberdeen St.

12:30 a.m. A partier with a whistle gets about 30 people started doing a fist-pumping jig shortly after several engineers slapped their jackets on the pavement, singing, “We are, we are, we are, we are, we are the engineers.”

1:09 a.m. Punches are exchanged on the corner of Aberdeen and William streets.

1:50 a.m. More fireworks go off over Aberdeen. Two dancers with bongo drums start a short-lived conga line of partiers.

2:15 a.m. As temperatures drop near freezing and crowds on the street thin out, police start walking up and down Aberdeen Street dispersing remaining partiers. Aberdeen Street volunteers start cleaning up.

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