‘Greater police enforcement is required’: Mayor discusses use of Queen’s $350,000 payment

Students express concern with excessive force used by police 

Mayor Bryan Paterson responds to allegations of excessive force.

On Oct. 16, approximately 8,000 individuals congregated in unsanctioned Homecoming gatherings on Aberdeen Street. 

According to Kingston Police, 36 were arrested, and approximately 186 violations of provincial law and Kingston bylaws occurred over Homecoming weekend.

“I am strongly condemning the continued aggressive, volatile, and disrespectful behaviour that has been directed at our officers and by-law partners. It is completely unacceptable,” Kingston Police Chief Antje McNeely said in a press release.

Queen’s held a virtual homecoming over the weekend of Oct. 15, citing public health, the City of Kingston, and police consultations as reasons not to host Homecoming in-person this year.

“As you may be aware, Homecoming celebrations this year will take place virtually, Oct. 15-16, 2021. We made the decision to go virtual due to ongoing concerns regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our community,” Principal Patrick Deane said in an email sent to Queen’s students on Oct. 14. 

In the days leading up to the Homecoming weekend, news broke that Queen’s paid the City of Kingston $350,000 to compensate extra costs taken on from enforcing COVID-19 restrictions in the student district.

According to Deane, this amount was meant to cover the burden placed on municipal services by Queen’s students during Homecoming.

“In discussion with the City, we felt our contribution this year of $350K recognized the University’s partnership with the City and city agencies, as well as the unusual draw on city resources due to the pandemic and the additional pressures on city services to ensure health and safety,” Deane said in an email to The Journal

“It is up to the City how they distribute the funds. No additional or future funding was discussed.”

In an interview with The Journal, Yara Hussein, ArtSci ’23, said she believed $350,000 was an excessive amount. 

“What I was surprised to see was the intensity of policing over Homecoming weekend. [...] I was very shocked with the amount of money that was given to the City of Kingston, which they can use for policing,” Hussein said. 

“That money could have gone to many different resources within the university.”

Hussein added that excessive force may have been used by Kingston Police during this year’s homecoming events. 

“I heard about several incidents, and even saw several videos where students were pushed down to the ground by police officers. Students were forced into police cars just because they were a part of the Homecoming celebrations. I also saw multiple videos of police having riot gear, which in my opinion is not needed,” Hussein said. 

In a media release, the AMS expressed their condemnation of such incidents.

“The AMS does not support the tactics taken by the police,” the statement read. “The tactics that were deployed by the police are not what we were informed of, and we were surprised and disappointed by the over-policing of our students.”

“While we understand concerns from community members, it is important to note that the police this weekend exacerbated the events of homecoming and the tactics were not only ineffective but excessive.”

The AMS has also created a petition calling on the City and Kingston Police to allocate the $350K to harm reduction measures, Kingston health care, and other social services.

In response to allegations of excessive police force, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson said there were reports by Kingston Police of “aggressive behaviour” coming from students during homecoming celebrations. 

“One officer had to go to the hospital, and officers were being hit with projectiles, beer bottles, and other things,” Paterson said in an interview with The Journal

“If there is an aggressive crowd, the police have to be able to respond. [...] Not everyone in the crowd was aggressive, but enough instigators in the crowd required a police response.”

Paterson said the City and Queen’s discussed the funding extensively before it was provided.

“There were a number of conversations between myself and the Queen’s principal. We were talking about the burden on city resources as a whole, not just police enforcement, but communications with students, and what local rules existed,” Paterson said.

“A lot of city services are just more challenging for us to deliver in a pandemic, such as transit, garbage collection. Queen’s was clear that they wanted to pay their fair share.”

Paterson said this year’s payment has increased from previous years due to general trends seen in breaches of the Student Code of Conduct and compliance with COVID-19 restrictions. 

“We have seen more parties in the first six weeks, and I think a greater police enforcement presence is required because we are dealing with the pandemic and public health restrictions,” Paterson said.

“In a normal year, a 40 or 50 person gathering inside a home wouldn’t violate any city bylaws, but right now that’s a violation of the reopening orders.”

Paterson said he encourages “safe and responsible” student behaviour. 

“My message is clear, students are welcome here and we want them to enjoy their time here. I encourage them to celebrate responsibly, within the boundaries everyone else has to follow. I appreciate very much that the majority of students have modeled the right behaviours, unfortunately a minority have not,” Paterson said.

“It is simply not fair to the rest of the students and community when a minority chooses not to abide by the bylaws.” 

Paterson said Kingston Police will continue to respond to potential student gatherings over the weekends of Oct. 22 and 30. 

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