For most of Saturday, unsanctioned street parties surrounding Western University’s Homecoming were much calmer than what’s been seen in London, Ont., before the COVID-19 pandemic, but officials say they’re lacking data on what took place in the evening.
In an update shared on Monday afternoon, police say the “unsanctioned student event on Broughdale Avenue and surrounding streets” drew an estimated 2,000 people at its height on Saturday, which makes up only a fraction of the 25,000 people seen in 2019.
“While there were no major incidents to report, the event was a significant strain on emergency services,” police added.
COVID-19: Western Homecoming sees smaller-than-normal turnout amid pandemic
In a summary of activity from the day, police say 20 provincial offence act notices were issued under the liquor licence act and dozens of fines were issued or are being processed for a variety of reasons.
The majority of the fines stem from parking violations, with 66 tickets doled out and three vehicles towed. Twelve fines were issued for either noise, attending a public nuisance party, using a closed street or public urination. Three fines were also issued under the public nuisance by-law for people being on roofs.
Only one person was arrested, but they were warned and released without charges, and police say no criminal charges were laid throughout the day. Local paramedics responded to seven calls and two people were transported to hospital.
However, police noted that the summary of activity only covers what took place between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday.
“Police are aware that there were a number of additional large gatherings throughout the evening, and the statistics in relation to enforcement at those gatherings are not currently available,” police said.
“If information is available in the future – it will be shared as appropriate.”
In a media briefing on Monday, Mayor Ed Holder said the “vast majority of those at Western conducted themselves responsibly over the weekend,” adding that those who did attend parties on Broughdale Avenue were “generally respectful.”
“However, it was a somewhat different story during the evening and overnight hours on Saturday, specifically in the Huron Street area,” Holder said.
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City bylaw officers responded to 24 noise complaints during that time, several of which were referred to police due to crowd size, Holder said.
“In addition, and based on evidence still being reviewed and collected, it’s entirely possible that we’ll see additional charges issued later in the week, including violations of the medical officer of health’s Section 22 order.”
Holder added that he does not yet have a final figure for the cost of policing student partying on Saturday, but noted that 2019’s celebrations left a bill of more than $300,000.
Officer punched during late night arrest
Part of the shift in tone from daytime partying to evening festivities could be seen in an arrest announced by police on Monday.
It was around 11:40 p.m. on Saturday when officers near Richmond and Huron streets observed a man urinating on a marked police cruiser, according to police.
When an officer told the man he was under arrest, police said “the suspect struck the officer multiple times with a closed fist,” leaving the officer with minor injuries.
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More officers arrived to help as the suspect resisted arrest, according to police.
A 21-year-old London man has been charged with assaulting a peace officer, resisting arrest and public intoxication.
He has been released from custody, but is set to make a court appearance in London on Dec. 23.
Other officials react
Ward 6 Coun. Phil Squire, whose seat on city council represents the areas where officers watched for parties on Saturday, says while authorities were able to prevent massive gatherings on Broughdale Avenue, parties had spilled onto the nearby Huron Street for most of the day.
“They (regrouped) at about 9 p.m. on Huron Street, you’re talking 1,500 people, and that went on until 3 a.m., and I think the challenge there was that it was a different kind of crowd in that it was a little more intense crowd, a more confrontational crowd,” Squire said.
“Homecoming isn’t going away. It may be different because of our planning as a city, but the idea that it will disappear is overly hopeful at this time.”
In a statement sent to Global News on Monday afternoon, Western condemned unsanctioned street partying over the weekend and said they are “in no way representative of Western’s values – or most of all our students.”
The university praised the work of local police, firefighters, paramedics and other agencies that helped in monitoring events on Saturday, and noted that Western will investigate every complaint brought forward through its Code of Student Conduct.
Western also asked students who attended any parties to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and visit its on-campus vaccination and testing site if they feel unwell.
“These dangerous events place an undue burden on our frontline workers and are of great concern to Western and the broader community,” said the university.
“There is no excuse for breaking the law, taxing emergency response professionals and damaging public property.”
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