Kingston mobilized every available officer on its police force Saturday as the city geared up for the rowdy festivities that have coincided with the annual homecoming weekend at Queen’s University. But although 7,000 revellers showed up for the party, the evening was relatively peaceful.
The Kingston force’s 200-plus officers were reinforced by officers from Belleville and the Ontario Provincial Police to deal with the event that has in years past been known nation-wide for its drunken party-goers throwing bottles at police. In 2005, revellers flipped and burned a car.
By early Saturday, authorities had already made 34 arrests for public intoxication and issued 187 tickets for alcohol-related infractions. Ambulances rushed to assist at least a half dozen people suffering cuts from broken glass and one seriously intoxicated young woman.
“Booze and bravado, it’s just a recipe for disaster,” said Const. Michael Menor, a Kingston police spokesperson. He said police will be using surveillance cameras to zero in on illegal behaviour, but not exert undue force or aggression. “They’ll react to it, they’re not going to bring it.”
To the ire of local residents, upwards of 7,000 people flocked to party in the heart of the student village — some coming from as far as Vancouver, Halifax and the U.S.
Police worries increased after Queen’s won the afternoon varsity football game against the University of Western Ontario. “I think students are going to be excited about that,” said Paul Tye. “We’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t think people wanted to celebrate.”
During the mammoth gathering, Tye joined a group of 200 to 300 students, alumni and concerned citizens patrolling the crowds. They encouraged safety by providing plastic cups in exchange for beer bottles, handing out free water and adding a friendly but formal presence.
Despite the apparent recipe for disaster, no one was seriously injured and only 50 people were arrested Saturday night. Most arrests were for public drunkenness.
To prevent the problems of past years, Kingston Beer Stores refused to sell beer kegs to students this weekend and the city’s council voted to close the street where the gathering occurs.
Tye said while there’s “inevitably” going to be turnout, there’s sentiment among some students the event needs to be stopped. “They’re realizing this problem is embarrassing. It’s affecting their diploma and their reputation,” he said.
-with a report from CP