Fauxcoming, or going away?

University, city prepare for potential street party this weekend

Lauren McCormick, ArtSci ’12, is a member of the Facebook group “Aberdeen Street Party.”
Lauren McCormick, ArtSci ’12, is a member of the Facebook group “Aberdeen Street Party.”

Homecoming may be off the books officially, but students, administrators and the city are cautious about what to expect this weekend on Aberdeen Street.

Last year, then-Principal Tom Williams cancelled Homecoming, which would’ve taken place this weekend, for 2009-10 and 2010-11 in hopes of curbing the unsanctioned party that annually attracts about 5,000 people to Aberdeen Street on the Saturday night of Homecoming weekend.

Facebook events called “Aberdeen Street Party,” with 681 members, and “Queen’s Homecoming 2009,” with 5,493 members as of yesterday, suggest otherwise.

The city won’t be closing Aberdeen Street as city council has voted to do in the past, city councillor Mark Gerretsen said.

“I’m aware of the rumours and of unsanctioned events being set up through Facebook,” he said. “Because the street isn’t closed, the potential for conflict is bigger.”

Gerretsen said if there’s a street party, he expects it to draw a smaller crowd than it traditionally has because police are going to enforce laws more strictly than before.

“If there’s a street party it’s against the law,” he added.

Kingston Police didn’t respond to repeated requests for an interview.

Police Chief Stephen Tanner told the Whig-Standard on Sept. 18 that he will bring a crowd-control squad on horseback from Toronto as well as 150 riot squad officers this Saturday. A hundred Kingston Police officers will also be on party patrol that night.

Lauren McCormick, ArtSci ’12, said she thinks there’s still going to be a party on Aberdeen Street this year.

“Queen’s is a very traditional school and Homecoming has been around for so many years,” she said. “To take it away is ruining a tradition.”

For McCormick, Homecoming and the Aberdeen Street party are intrinsically linked.

“When I think of homecoming I think of Aberdeen Street” she said.

McCormick is part of the Facebook group “Aberdeen Street Party”, although she didn’t create it.

“I can completely see the other side, but it’s a very important tradition that represents the school and the students,” she said. “I just wish they would bring it back. ... Students are learning to be a little more responsible with their actions.”

McCormick said she isn’t sure if she will attend this year’s party.

“I’ve heard its going to be very police raided and not as fun as last year,” she said.

Students should avoid going to Aberdeen Street on Saturday night, Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker said. “I would encourage people to wait for the paper and not go see it for themselves,” he said. “It will only add to the volume of people who get hurt or get arrested.”

Laker said dangers for students include alcohol poisoning, physical injury, limited access to medical care, arrest and a permanent criminal record.

After Homecoming 2008, Mike MacDonald, program manager for the emergency department at Kingston General Hospital reported to the Journal 27 cases of severe intoxication on the Friday night and 29 cases on the Saturday, noting an increase in assault in other injuries.

“I think when street parties occur, there’s always a danger of getting injured,” Laker said.

AMS Assembly voted last Thursday to send an e-mail to students this week explaining the difference between this year’s and previous years’ Homecoming weekends and warning them about the potential dangers of the situation.

Key differences mentioned in the email are the fact that Aberdeen Street will be open, volunteers won’t be present to hand out water and plastic cups and St John Ambulance will not be present nor will Frontenac Paramedics be adding additional ambulances for the night.

The email will be signed by AMS President Michael Ceci as well as Rector Leora Jackson and all faculty and residence society presidents.

Red Hat volunteers, who handed out water and traded plastic cups for beer bottles on Aberdeen Street last year, won’t be present this Saturday, AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner Libby Shaker said.

“[Students] are liable to the Student Code of Conduct and municipal, provincial and federal laws,” she said. “We expect that the police will be responding more directly to illegal activity than they have in the past.” Shaker said the AMS has been talking to Kingston Police and the city about their role this weekend.

“They said they will be acting to protect community safety,” she said. “We don’t really know what that means.”

She said student opinions on the party have been varied.

“There are rumours going in every direction. We don’t know what to expect.”

—With files from Jamie Lincoln

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