Panda-monium: Vehicle damaged, streets covered in garbage following celebrations in Ottawa's Sandy Hill neighbourhood
OTTAWA -- Panda Game celebrations in Ottawa's Sandy Hill neighbourhood ended with partygoers taking over a residential street, flipping a car and leaving a trail of garbage and debris.
Mayor Jim Watson says he is "absolutely disgusted" by the incidents, and Ottawa police say "several incidents of criminal behaviour" are under investigation after a large crowd gathered near the University of Ottawa campus late Saturday night.
Approximately 2,000 students descended on the neighbourhood after 8 p.m. to celebrate the Gee-Gees victory over Carleton University in the annual football game Saturday afternoon.
Police say a car was overturned and one person was assaulted during the incident, while paramedics transported seven people to hospital.
Owen Stanton-Kennedy said a crowd started forming between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and police had been driving-by trying to disperse it.
"After a point someone shouted, 'They can't stop us, we can still have our street party,'" said Stanton-Kennedy.
CTV News Ottawa cameras were on the scene as a large street party took over Russell Avenue, between Somerset Street and Templeton Street at approximately 11:30 p.m. The footage showed hundreds of people in the middle of the street, with some people jumping on an overturned vehicle.
As the crowd dispersed early Sunday morning, one witness told CTV News Ottawa, "Kids went crazy and they liked flipped three cars and were like partying on it."
"It's just crazy."
Ottawa police cruisers were on the scene to monitor the party and block off the road late Saturday night.
In a statement Sunday afternoon, police said investigators were looking into several incidents of criminal behaviour, and reviewing social media and video of the scene.
Ottawa police and bylaw increased patrols in Sandy Hill, Old Ottawa South and the Glebe, along with around TD Place, before and after the game on Saturday.
"The pre and post game events were very safe and did not disrupt the neighbourhood. However, just after 8 p.m., large crowds began to gather in Sandy Hill at multiple addresses," said police.
"OPS redeployed a large number of officers and called out members of the Emergency Services Unit. The officers worked to control and manage the groups of people with partners from the RCMP, and City Bylaw, paramedics and Ottawa Fire Services."
Police say in some cases, the crowds became "very disruptive" in the area of Russell Avenue.
"In one incident, a car was overturned and a person was assaulted. Police are reviewing evidence and will be laying any applicable charges under the Reopening of Ontario Act, Liquor Licence Act, City By-laws as well as any criminal charges under the Criminal Code of Canada," said police on Sunday afternoon.
"These behaviours are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Investigators have been assigned to identify anyone who committed crimes. The OPS will also work with the University of Ottawa and Carleton University staff where students from those were involved in these behaviours."
As of 1 p.m. Sunday, no one had been charged in connection to the incidents.
Mayor Watson says he has spoken to Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly about the incident, and several investigations are underway.
"I am absolutely disgusted by the behaviour of those involved in the unruly party on Russell Avenue following yesterday's Panda Game," said Watson on Twitter Sunday morning.
"Individuals, including police officers, were injured and private and public property was damaged."
The mayor added the behaviour by some of the students is "completely unacceptable."
"Those involved should be ashamed of their idiotic and immature behaviour," said Watson.
"The vast majority of students enjoyed the pre-game activities as well as the game itself. Regrettably, post-game events in Sandy Hill were destructive, especially as we continue our fight against COVID-19."
During a CTV News at Six Sunday evening, Watson responded to criticism from some neighbours that there was no police presence.
"The problems occurred after 9 o'clock, and my understanding is that there was no serious activity taking place at 9, the police started to move out some of their reinforcements and then unfortunately I think that's when social media lit up and people saying, 'Come on to Russell Avenue," said Watson.
"Obviously, thousands showed up. The lesson's learned, and I know the chief will do a review of this."
The mayor says he will meet with Chief Sloly and Coun. Mathieu Fleury on Monday to discuss the situation.
A photo posted on social media at 1 a.m. showed a car flipped over and damaged in the middle of Russell Avenue, while garbage littered the street.
Steve Higham posted a video on Twitter showing thousands of people on Russell Avenue. Higham told CTV News Ottawa Sunday afternoon that it was a "good three hours" before he saw any police activity, and by then the crowd was already dispersing due to the rain.
"You could hear people start cheering and there was just a group of people that for whatever reason decided it was a good idea to flip a car over," said Higham in an interview with CTV News Ottawa.
Witnesses say the owner of the car confronted the people who flipped his vehicle, and he was punched in the face.
Higham said he decided he would sit on the porch of his Russell Avenue home Saturday night to stop people from going to the bathroom at his house.
"I watched as people stood on it as it was on its side and then rolled again which was quite scary, I was worried they were going to pin people or it would fall on top of someone," said Higham.
"I had anticipated at that point the cops were going to sweep in and move people along but that didn’t happen. The police kind of sat at the end of the street and watched things transpire."
Stanton-Kennedy says he heard a "huge crash" halfway through the evening, learning later it was the car being flipped over.
"They were stomping on the car and trying to destroy it, they were using the street signs that they had taken down and also one of the metal barriers that I think was set up across the crowd," said Stanton-Kennedy.
Owen Wood attended a party in the area.
"Towards the end of the night it got more intense, more people, the level of intoxication was probably more and probably more irresponsibility towards the end of the night," said Wood.
Ottawa paramedics say seven people were transported to hospital from Sandy Hill Saturday night to be treated for minor injuries or alcohol intoxication. All seven people were listed in stable condition.
Coun. Fleury told CTV News Ottawa Sunday morning that Ottawa police, Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario are investigating the incidents in Sandy Hill.
In a statement on Twitter, Fleury called the events Saturday night "deplorable and unacceptable."
"I encourage all authorities to investigate fully; press charges and fines to organisers and those who participated," said Fleury Sunday afternoon. "Such hooliganism is selfish, puts the community at risk, and cannot go with on without consequences."
In the days leading up to the Panda Game, police, bylaw services and both the University of Ottawa and Carleton University urged students to be good neighbours during the Panda Game weekend.
UOttawa had previously planned a clean-up patrol in Sandy Hill Sunday morning following the Panda Game.
A volunteer clean-up patrol will be deployed in the neighbourhood at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Stanton-Kennedy, summing up the mood for many residents of Sandy Hill, saying, "It was not a fun night."
"The game itself is not the issue. It's the atmosphere around the game that needs to change."
Stanton-Kennedy says Panda Game after parties weren't an issue until 2016.
"Each subsequent year would get worse and worse."
Higham says he doesn't want to see the Panda Game cancelled following this year's events.
"I’m not sure what the best way to crack down on the partying, but I think they should continue because it’s a good event, brings people together, builds school spirit, but obviously what happened last night is not acceptable."
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees beat the Carleton Ravens 19-17 to win the 52nd Panda Game at TD Place.
'WE WERE IMMENSELY DISAPPOINTED': UOTTAWA SAYS
The University of Ottawa says it will fully support that those responsible for the damage caused in Sandy Hill will be dealt with through the judicial institution.
"To all those who behaved recklessly and dangerously last night: you should know that your actions were shameful and unacceptable," said a statement from uOttawa President and Vice-Chancellor Jacques Fremont and Jill Scott, Prevost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs.
"We expect all students - ours and others from other institutions - to abide by the values of civility and respect. We also expect you to respect public health guidelines. If you were part of the crowds that were responsible for the damage and disrespect last night, then you must do better."
The statement said the university was "immensely disappointed" to learn some students gathered to "celebrate loudly and irresponsibly" on the streets of Sandy Hill.
"To the residents of Sandy Hill, we profoundly regret the damage that was done, as well as the fear and anxiety that these events caused you last night," wrote Fremont and Scott in a statement released just after 2 p.m. Sunday.
"Sandy Hill is our home, and you – its residents – are our valued neighbours. The actions of those who have so disrespected our community are deeply distressing to us, as they are to our community as a whole."
With files from The Canadian Press