London riot not an anomaly

St. Patrick’s Day festivities included the usual blend of mirth and drinking last weekend, but at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., celebrations in the student neighborhood turned into a riot.

On March 17, revelers on Fleming Street, a student-dense area near the college, flipped a CTV news van and lit it on fire. The 1,000-strong crowd fed the flame long into the night, ripping apart fences and uprooting trees.

When police attempted to break up the crowd, bottles, bricks and other debris were thrown at them.

The riot, which caused an estimated $100,000 in damage, according to a Mar. 19 CBC article, was a gross and destructive event. But the riot shouldn’t be regarded as a permanent scar on Fanshawe or London’s reputation.

A riot like this can happen anywhere, and it has. Queen’s students themselves have been responsible for a frenzied crowd, demonstrated by years of Aberdeen Street parties on Homecoming.

When a large crowd, alcohol and police presence mixtogether, riots are the result. It’s time for the police to reconsider how they deal with crowds, and recognize that marching into an area with riot gear isn’t the best course of action.

A group of armoured police gives any crowd a common enemy, and it’s even more pronounced among students, who have a strong culture and history of rebelling against the police. Removing that perceived enemy makes it harder for a crowd to rise up together and cause havoc.

Fanshawe President Howard Rundle has suggested that the long-term solution to problems like the St. Patrick’s Day’s riot is to break up the Fanshawe Student Ghetto. The suggestion is troubling, and it would be best to encourage students to act responsibly rather than take away their community space.

Living in a neighborhood with a common culture is a memorable part of life at university. The student lifestyle though, is a privilege and not a right. Nearby families shouldn’t have to be afraid on St. Patrick’s Day, worrying their homes will be damaged or their property destroyed.

If students prove that they’re unable to live safely together, then integrating students housing into a larger city could improve the situation. The Fanshawe riot was sad to watch but it doesn’t reflect on the majority of students. The college’s reputation is undoubtedly damaged, but calling for drastic changes after one isolated incident is questionable — it’s not time to break up Fanshawe’s Student Ghetto.

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