8,000 people pack the University District in Kingston, Ont. to celebrate homecoming weekend at Queen's University
KINGSTON, ONT. -- Police moved in to break up a massive street party in the University District in Kingston, Ont. Saturday afternoon, as thousands of students ignored pleas from police and Queen's University to avoid large gatherings during homecoming weekend.
Approximately 8,000 people packed Aberdeen Street and William Street, near the campus of Queen's University, to celebrate the first homecoming weekend in two years.
"I've been through the crowds. There have been some crazy things going on," said Tyler Shea, a first year student at Queen's University, Saturday afternoon.
"It's just a time to celebrate the university. Kind of just have a good time, so I decided to come out," said David Shendlman.
CTV News Ottawa's Kimberley Johnson saw thousands of students on the street, front lawns, along with on porches of homes in the area.
One police officer was injured when cans and water bottles were thrown at officers on patrol in the area.
Just after 4 p.m., Kingston police declared Aberdeen Street and William Street an 'aggravated nuisance party' under the Mayor's Emergency Order.
Dozens of officers from the Kingston Police Service, Durham Regional Police and Ontario Provincial Police lined Aberdeen Street, as officers issued $2,000 tickets to people attending, hosting and partying on the street. Forty members of the OPP emergency response team were also seen on the streets in the University District.
At 5:20 p.m., police lifted the aggravated nuisance party declaration, saying the street had been cleared.
Officers remained in the University District Saturday evening monitoring any parties and activities near the campus.
Another aggravated nuisance party was declared just before 11 p.m. in the area of University Avenue and Johnson Street, once again ordering people to disperse.
Overnight, the police said officers continued to deal with intoxicated individuals in the area of Victoria Park.
The city of Kingston reported late Saturday evening that police and bylaw officers were responding to a new "large gathering" in the area of University Avenue and Johnson Street.
Police told CTV News Ottawa Saturday evening there were a few arrests in connection to the homecoming festivities on Saturday, but no other details were available.
"We went to check it out. It's a bit crazy," said Alex Francis.
"We tried our best to stay back, there's so many people," said another student to CTV News Ottawa.
Other students said they wanted to celebrate homecoming after it was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Especially since last year how we didn't get a HOCO and COVID kind of hit everything, I think everyone's going to go pretty hard this year," said a student near Aberdeen Street.
"We're still staying safe, we're all fully vaccinated and we're just trying to have fun."
Just after 1 p.m., police said that large gatherings were beginning to form in the University District, and many roadways were becoming congested.
Just after 1:30 p.m., police said there was a "volatile crowd" on Aberdeen Street.
"Projectiles have been thrown towards Police on the ground with one Officer sustaining an injury," said Kingston police on Twitter.
Const. Greg Anderson told Toronto's CP24 that officers on patrol in the University District had beer cans and water bottles thrown at them.
Hundreds of people were seen on the streets, on the front lawns of properties and even on the roof of one home in the University District Saturday afternoon.
In a statement on Twitter, Queen's University says it "condemns the misogynistic signs in the University District and 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."
Queen's University had said most homecoming weekend events would be held online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Queen's Gaels faced the Carleton Ravens in OUA football action in Kingston on Saturday afternoon.
Kingston police and bylaw, along with Queen's University, had been urging students to respect COVID-19 protocols and avoid large street parties during homecoming weekend.
On Thursday, Queen's Principal Patrick Deane sent a message to students, asking them not to attend large events during homecoming.
"I am asking for your assistance in helping contain the social gatherings and to act responsibly over the coming weekends," said Deane. "As members of both the Queen's and Kingston community, we all must demonstrate leadership, respect one another and be mindful and aware of the provincial laws and local bylaws that are in place to protect us."
Homecoming traditionally brings the students and alumni to the city, and unofficial events of years past have included massive street parties throughout the weekend.
Under Ontario's COVID-19 protocols, gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
On Sept. 10, the city of Kingston issued a new emergency order, which includes increased penalties and new enforcement powers to discourage social gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new emergency order increases the Administrative Monetary Penalties for attending an 'aggravated nuisance party' to $2,000. Police have the power to immediately issue fines for violations once a nuisance party has been declared.
Organizers and hosts of parties can be fined $10,000 under the Reopening Ontario Act.