This article contains mentions of antisemitism and may be disturbing for readers. The Canadian Mental Health Association Crisis Line can be reached at 1-800-875-6213. The Peer Support Centre offers drop-in services and empathetic peer-based support and is open in-person and online and can be accessed here. Incidents of anti-Jewish hate crimes may be reported here.
Putting on her Halloween costume, Sarah* had no idea the night with her friends would end in fear.
On Friday Oct. 27, Sarah and her friends attended a Halloween party in the Queen’s University student district that took a turn when students allegedly dressed as Hamas terrorists arrived at the apartment. Sarah, a Queen’s student who attended the party, wants to set the record straight about that night.
“I distinctly remember that group of people, who were claiming to be Hamas, saying the Jews would see God soon,” Sarah said in an interview with The Journal.
The party generated national news coverage, and prompted investigations by Kingston Police and Queen’s University. Police found no evidence the comments made at the party targeted a specific group, and no charges were made.
The living room was dark, with flashing lights when Sarah and her friends arrived at the party at Toronto and Mack St. around 11:30 p.m. At first glance, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and many of Sarah’s friends were already there.
Sarah approximates 40 people attended the party. Sweating from being crammed into the apartment, Sarah decided to leave around midnight and began to make her way to the door.
“There wasn’t anybody who I would assume isn’t a Queen’s student,” Sarah said. “All of a sudden there was people saying, ‘Oh my God, it’s Hamas.’”
At this point, Sarah turned to the kitchen and saw three male attendees, speaking loudly and dressed in green army vests with red and black scarves on their heads. People at the party claimed the group said they were dressed as Hamas militants.
The party went quiet, and someone turned the music off. The lights flicked on, and Sarah reported the men were university aged, but she didn’t recognize any of them.
Sarah heard the group using slogans associated with pro-Palestine demonstrations. According to Sarah, the hosts didn’t recognize the men and sent a male friend to ask the individuals dressed as Hamas to leave. Panic began to spread through the gathering.
“People were pushing each other, trying to escape. There were people hiding in the staircase,” Sarah said. “People were screaming, trying to get out.”
Since Sarah and her friends were close to the door, they quickly left, rushing back to a friend’s apartment unit within the same building. There was thudding noises and yelling coming from the upstairs apartment.
Sarah believes there was a physical altercation between the friend of the hosts and those dressed as Hamas, given the yelling and noises coming from the upstairs apartment.
“I distinctly remember someone saying, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ and then after that it was just yelling,” Sarah said.
While hearing male voices yelling and noises coming from upstairs, Sarah called the police at 12:16 a.m. for two minutes from her friend’s apartment.
Still inside, Sarah called her best friend, who is Jewish, to make sure she was safe. After finding out her friend was at home, Sarah remembered being worried for any Jewish students who were out that night.
Approximately six Kingston Police officers arrived at the scene around 12:20 a.m. They took her name and spoke to the hosts of the party, but by then, the group dressed as Hamas was gone.
Sarah and her friends have no recollection of a knife, a claim investigated by the Kingston Police. After visiting the apartment where the party was held, Sarah noticed there were holes in the walls, and the lock was broken.
Going to sleep that night, Sarah processed the party. She experienced flashbacks in the week after, hearing the yelling from the party, and consulted professional support to manage the aftermath. As Sarah went about her week, she thought that there would be more people talking about the party on campus.
“It was just so weird because nobody knew and, here I am being kind of just in shock, and nobody knows,” Sarah said.
Queen’s University has referred the incident to the non-academic misconduct office for investigation. The student code of conduct applies to students on University property, or in the case that conduct risks the health or safety of members of the University community in the University’s living, learning, and working environments.
Depending on the severity of the actions committed, students found guilty of misconduct can face sanctions including non-academic probation or a requirement to withdraw from Queen’s.
“The safety of our students and the Queen’s community is a top priority. The University has been clear it is committed to fostering a safe environment for students; there is no room for violence or hate of any kind within the campus community,” the University said in a statement to The Journal.
When the police statement was released on Oct. 31, Sarah was shocked to see they found no evidence of threats or hateful speech at the party.
“People deserve to know what has happened in our Queen’s community. It’s affecting more than just Jewish people. It’s affecting more than just Palestinian people. This affects Queen’s as a whole,” Sarah said.
For Sarah, the actions of on-campus groups and individuals in support of Israel or Palestine should not impact students’ safety off campus.
“Nobody should be getting hurt or [have] to worry about their safety because of what’s been happening on campus.”
*Name protected for safety.
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