Increased police presence in the University District must not go unacknowledged by Queen's

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Students are uncomfortable with the City of Kingston’s increased policing of the University District. Once again, the University is turning a blind eye.

Before Homecoming weekend on Oct. 15, news broke that Queen’s would be making a $350,000 donation to the City of Kingston to compensate increased costs as a result of enforcing COVID-19 restrictions in the University District. The Board feels a lack of funding dedicated to other means supporting student safety and curbing destruction during this time is concerning—particularly because the City seems bent on spending this money on policing.

The past two weekends, as students took to Aberdeen St. for Hoco and Foco debauchery, they were met with a heavy police presence—including officers in riot gear.

The rowdy minority of students on Queen’s party weekends, who make decisions which endanger themselves, their peers and the overall Kingston community—especially during a pandemic—deserve no excuse. But the increased presence of police around campus serves to make students feel intimidated, not protected.

The AMS has spearheaded a petition demanding that Queen’s donation to the City be put towards harm reduction rather than law enforcement. Over 1,500 people have signed, yet the University has been silent.

Remaining passive about the police presence at street party events increases danger for attendees in an already chaotic atmosphere. The University should know better than to be complicit when it comes to student safety.

Queen’s decision to donate an unprecedented amount of money to the City while neglecting how it’s spent ignores the voices of students, particularly historically marginalized students, as they reject over-policing. These same students, including students of colour and LGBTQIA+ individuals, are among those disproportionately targeted by police.

The vandalism and the destructive parties during events like Homecoming aren’t acceptable. However, we live in a society where police involvement can pose a detriment to student safety.

This past Homecoming celebration is a good example. Unsurprisingly, most of the policing focus was on Aberdeen, the traditional hub for the street party. Law enforcement drove students from the street, dividing the party into smaller groups and moving the commotion outwards into the University District.

Although Aberdeen quieted, the efforts resulted in hundreds of inebriated students to move away from campus—and  help—to engage in dangerous behaviors across the community.

When the City chooses to deploy a large police presence, the officers present should be actively protecting attendees and property, not ratcheting up unwanted behaviors.

Queen’s money would’ve been better spent if funds were diverted towards protecting students who were inevitably going to choose to risk Homecoming this year.

Setting up support tents to help those suffering from the effects of alcohol, for example, could’ve facilitated safety and supervision of students while reducing strain on Kingston’s hospitals—a meaningful way to reduce the financial burden on the City.

When it comes to addressing party weekends, Queen’s must be prepared to prevent dangerous and destructive student behaviors without compromising student safety—instead of passively watching the situation unfold

—Journal Editorial Board

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