Aberdeen attracts smaller turnout

Students accuse police of aggression, misconduct

Riot police line Aberdeen Street, keeping students off the street, on Saturday night
Riot police line Aberdeen Street, keeping students off the street, on Saturday night
Police say less than 40 per cent of those arrested were Queen’s affiliated.
Police say less than 40 per cent of those arrested were Queen’s affiliated.
Kingston Police brought in officers from Toronto on horseback for crowd control.
Kingston Police brought in officers from Toronto on horseback for crowd control.
Police confiscate a toy horse head from a party-goer, citing safety concerns.
Police confiscate a toy horse head from a party-goer, citing safety concerns.

What was supposed to be a quick stop on Aberdeen Street to show his out-of-town friend the street party turned into a nine-hour detention for Nick Holt, Sci ’12, this weekend.

Holt was arrested on Saturday night for a liquor law violation and kept in a holding cell at Kingston Police headquarters before being released at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.

He was one of 81 arrests made on Saturday night and one of 118 over the weekend.

Approximately 2,000 people partied on Aberdeen Street until about 1:30 a.m. on the Saturday night of what would have been Homecoming weekend. Past Homecoming weekends have attracted an average of 5,000 people to Aberdeen Street, with that number peaking at about 8,000 people in 2006.

Last November, then-Principal Tom Williams cancelled Homecoming for the next two years in an effort to curb the annual unsanctioned street party.

Kingston Police Chief Stephen Tanner said less than 40 per cent of those arrested were Queen’s students, adding that the other arrestees were Kingston locals or people from out of town.

Holt said he and his friends visited Aberdeen Street because one of his friends from out of town wanted to see what was going on.

“Our friend Greg got arrested so my brother was talking to a Kingston Police officer asking him where we could get Greg tomorrow because we had no idea where he was going to go,” he said. “The police walking down the street started shoving my brother and they were telling us to keep walking and stuff, and they just kept shoving us really ridiculously hard and they were actually going pretty crazy. So I turned around and said, ‘I don’t appreciate that’ and they arrested me.”

Holt said when he was released he was given a $65 fine for being drunk in public.

“They never performed any tests to see if I was drunk,” he said, adding that he had been drinking earlier in the night.

Police told him the infraction wouldn’t go on his permanent record, he said.

Holt said his family is seeking legal counsel to fight the fine.

“There was really no reason for the arrest, I believe,” he said. “I really believe it was [the police] just being on a power trip.”

Holt said he attended the street party last year and found the police officers less friendly this year.

Holt said if there’s a party next year he probably won’t attend.

“I wouldn’t want anything stupid to happen.”

Police handed out 153 tickets on Saturday night and 314 for the weekend, Tanner said. Most were for liquor law violations.

Last year, police handed out 620 fines over Homecoming weekend.

There were 16 keg-related charges this year, he said.

Policing costs for the party were between $300,000 and $400,000, Tanner said, adding that the police forces involved arranged their schedules in advance to save on overtime costs for the officers.

More than 400 officers from Kingston Police, Ontario Provincial Police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and local forces from Toronto, Belleville, Gananoque and Smiths Falls were on patrol.

There was a squad of crowd-control officers from Toronto on horseback and in riot gear.

At about 11 p.m., officers in riot gear were instructed to put on their protective helmets because 15 beer bottles had been thrown at them, Tanner said.

“There may be a view that the donning of protective helmets was a show of force,” he said. “All police behaviour was in direct response to crowd behaviour. … I don’t have any knowledge of any excessive force being used at any point.”

Holt said he knows many people who were pushed or otherwise harassed by officers on Aberdeen Street. He isn’t surprised Tanner hasn’t heard about it.

“It might not have been reported,” he said, adding that when he goes to settle his fine, he will bring a complaint to the police.

“They were just really shoving unnecessarily, I thought.” One Toronto Police officer was struck in the head by a bottle. The officer was uninjured.

One woman was taken to hospital and treated for head injuries. AMS President Michael Ceci said the feedback he has gotten about the event has been positive.

“There was a tremendous decrease in the number of people in the Core and there were no serious injuries except the one girl,” he said.

Ceci said the AMS is starting to discuss further steps in curbing the street party but won’t discuss the possibility of the administration bringing Homecoming back.

“The earliest we’ll entertain discussion on what to do and whether we’re going to bring it back would be late next year,” he said. “My only hope would be that next year around this time, the positive things that have happened this year will be built upon and continued.”

Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said he thinks the weekend’s relatively subdued tone is an encouraging development.

“I had feared that an open confrontation between party goers and police could have been very difficult and dangerous,” he said. “I’m certainly consoled that all parties here, and particularly the students, showed a lot of restraint.”

Deane said the University won’t be paying for any of the costs associated with the street party this year.

In previous years, Queen’s gave the city upwards of $175,000 per year to help with policing costs.

“It’s an appropriate thing that the city and Kingston Police have now assumed responsibility for maintaining order on the streets because it’s a much bigger issue than Queen’s and Queen’s students,” he said. “Our students certainly accounted for considerably less than half of the people there.”

Deane said the University will continue its working group with the city to discuss the future of town-gown relations.

“They spend very little time talking about Aberdeen and a lot of time talking about the quality of housing and issues that are, in the long term, more profoundly important for the students and the University,” he said.

Deane said although he wouldn’t call the weekend a success, it was a step in the right direction.

“Any night in which serious injury is avoided is a good thing, but I don’t think that’s a sufficiently high measure of success,” he said. “I think success would be events in which the student celebrations occur and there’s no imposition on the surrounding community and no danger to property or to citizens of Kingston or to students themselves.

“If next year shows a similar trend, I think things will start to look better for the return of Homecoming.”

—With files from Rachel Kuper

Fauxcoming by the numbers

2,000 people on Aberdeen Street at its peak

153 tickets given out on Saturday night

314 tickets given out over the weekend, mostly for liquor violations

620 liquor license violations last year

81 arrests on Saturday night

118 arrests over the weekend

The youngest person arrested was 17 years old, the oldest was 48

Less than 40 per cent of arrests were Queen’s affiliated

16 keg-related charges

15 beer bottles thrown at police

10 people went to KGH for Fauxcoming-related illnesses

$10,000 spent in overtime by the fire department

$300,000 to $400,000 taxpayer dollars spent on Fauxcoming

1 officer from Toronto struck in the head with a bottle

-Rachel Kuper

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