By Diana ZlomislicInvestigative Reporter
Sat., Oct. 16, 2021timer2 min. read
updateArticle was updated 2 hrs ago
KINGSTON, ONT. — Kingston called in the OPP’s riot squad on Saturday to help clear an illegal university homecoming party that saw 8,000 people, and a crowd-surfing sofa, swarm a storied section of the University District.
What started as a rather tame gathering of a few hundred hanging out on the lawns and porches of Aberdeen Street quickly grew by the thousands after a Kingston police officer was hit by a flying object and taken to hospital.
Queen’s University has been pleading with students for weeks to avoid mass gatherings. Outside of a sparsely attended university football game against the Carleton Ravens on Saturday afternoon, the university had decided to stage a primarily virtual homecoming.
Word of the unsanctioned street party had been spreading throughout the week. Police and university officials have been monitoring social media accounts to prepare.
Kingston police employed a drone over Aberdeen Street for a bird’s-eye view of the gathering, which showed a mass of students descending on the area between 1 and 1: 30 p.m.
The school issued a statement on social media Saturday condemning “reports of some individuals throwing projectiles at police which led to an officer being injured. These actions will be actively pursued under our Student Code of Conduct.”
The statement also referenced the school’s condemnation of “misogynistic signs” — large, white, home-made banners hanging outside some students’ houses with messages like “Lockdown your daughters not King$ton” and “Western guys wish they were Pfizer to they can get inside her.”
On Sept. 10, after a rash of unsanctioned student parties, the city of Kingston issued a new emergency order to increase the fine for attending an “aggravated nuisance party” to $2,000 from $500. This fine can be issued to anyone attending a gathering above the provincial limit of 25 people inside and 100 people outside.
Party organizers can also face a $10,000 fine and a court summons for violating the Reopening Ontario Act.
Through a loudspeaker, police advised the revellers on Aberdeen Street that the site had been declared an aggravated nuisance party.
Hundreds of students were clinging to rooftops, hanging out of second-storey windows and trees. Some, in the middle of the pack in the street, set off fireworks. The crowd hoisted a full-sized sofa from one side of the street to the other, as students took turns getting a ride. The sofa was later replaced by a metal shopping cart. The vast majority of the students appeared peaceful and joyous as they sang a mass rendition of the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.”
At approximately 4: 40 p.m., police from Kingston, Durham Region and the OPP began what they called a “soft approach” into the crowd. The ranks of officers marched slowly toward the crowd a few feet at a time squeezing the revelers out of the area.
By 5: 10 p.m., the street was nearly empty.
Kingston Police told the Star it cannot yet say how many students were arrested or fined in connection with Saturday’s events.
The Star saw about half-a-dozen young men and women led away in handcuffs.
Kingston Police Inspector Dan Mastin has been working homecoming parties for 33 years. He didn’t think this year’s unsanctioned event was particularly remarkable.
“It’s the same every year,” he said. “This is … familiar.”