KINGSTON, Ont. — The notorious Queen's University Homecoming celebration will be back this weekend for the first time in five years, and Kingston Police have a plan for if things get out of hand.
“Will we have eyes in and around the area for Homecoming? Of course we will. We aren’t going to blindly assume it’s going to work well and then have to suddenly react,” said Const. Steve Koopman.
“Will there be officers in and around there? Yes. Will they be in high numbers or highly visible or concentrated in one area? That’s something we’re not going to speak to at this point in time.
This weekend marks the first fall Homecoming at Queen’s University in five years. It was suspended in 2008 by then-principal Tom Williams, who moved class reunions to the spring instead.
When the annual fall event was cancelled, it was known for the massive, unsanctioned outdoor party that would take place on Aberdeen Street. Police would typically lay dozens of charges, most of them liquor-related.
Police and riot squads were often deployed to break up the illegal gathering.
The parties — one of which saw a car overturned and set on fire — would draw media attention nationally.
Now, after consultations between groups from Queen’s and the community, the fall Homecoming is getting another chance.
And the city’s police will be ready should the celebrations turn unruly.
“Hopefully, everyone can feel two things. First, that they can feel safe that they know we’re out there, but, secondly, they don’t feel this heavy presence that’s almost oppressive in regard to the fact that the students or the alumni can’t enjoy themselves. We really want to strike that fine balance,” said Koopman.
Police are also monitoring social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter for unsanctioned parties.
“It’s just open source information,” Koopman said.
But Koopman said it seems that this crop of students is doing more self-policing than those of five years ago.
“So we like to say that we’re cautiously optimistic,” he said. “I think a large part of it, too, is the fact that students are taking some of the responsibility on their own shoulders, that they’re stating this is our university, we have pride in it, and we want to be able to have an official Homecoming.”