Dalhousie homecoming parties ‘like a carnival protest,’ says neighbour

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Meredith Annett had just returned home from shopping Saturday morning when she noticed a police car parked near her Halifax home and large groups of people drinking and people dressed in black and gold “coming from every direction.”

“It was just like a carnival protest,” said Annett, a 30-year resident of Larch Street.

“It was very strange … the police sort of corralled them up Jennings Street and there were 200 or 300 people up there just in that little area shouting for their rights and freedoms to behave in this abominable way.”

Dalhousie University held its homecoming celebrations this weekend, but a large off-campus gathering on Jennings Street quickly got out of hand with 22 arrests. Police estimate up to 1,500 people were out partying between Jennings, Chestnut, Larch and Preston streets on Saturday.

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Halifax Regional Police shut down a number of parties Saturday morning and afternoon that were being held to celebrate Dalhousie University’s homecoming. The banner hanging outside this house says, “You honk we drink.” (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Annett said she was concerned about excessive drinking, safety and vulgar language because there are young children also living in the area.

“The F-bombs that were dropping were beyond belief,” said Annett.

Elizabeth Hughes has lived on Jennings Street for 34 years and was home when the party got started. She said she was concerned about the large numbers of people standing on roofs and decks and the possibility they might fall off them.

“It was like a huge event without a proper venue,” said Hughes. “They all appeared to be happy and having fun and loving being with their friends … but they needed to be somewhere where they could jump and scream and perhaps drink in a safe place.”

Hughes said she called non-emergency police line three times.

Jennings Street dal homecoming party

Seven police cars parked along this stretch of Jennings Street Saturday afternoon. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

She said she was bothered by the lack of respect shown to police officers. In a video on YouTube, people could be heard chanting “F–k the cops.”

“I thought the police did an excellent job and were very patient, extremely patient with the number of students who were there obviously not following their directions to break the party up,” said Hughes.

Student perspective

Jeremie Baumeister, a second-year student who lives on Jennings Street, said festivities did escalate to a “certain level that was pretty much uncontrollable,” but wasn’t pleased with how police responded to the situation.

“I heard that people were just getting taken out of the crowd and just put into the paddy wagon. To me that seemed pretty often, I heard of many people who got tickets for very obscure reasons such as crossing the road without using the sidewalk,” said Baumeister.

Baumeister said students need to do a better job of controlling themselves and showing more respect to the community, but he disagreed with the decision to issue tickets.

“I don’t think in that early of day we should be getting noise complaints just because of our neighbours finding the music too loud,” he said.

Empties in the backyard

Carol Ritchie wasn’t home when the celebrations were happening Saturday, but she saw videos showing the party at its height.

“My son was home briefly and he said that students were walking back and fourth in our driveway and going in the backyard drinking. We had some empty beer cans in our backyard when we got home,” said Ritchie.

police and students dal homecoming

Police speak with students dressed in Dalhousie University gear at the corner of Jennings and Preston streets Saturday afternoon. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Ritchie, who has lived on Jennings Street for 18 years, said the city, the university, the landlords and parents of the students need to take responsibility for “students who cannot govern themselves.” She said she plans to meet with her municipal councillor to discuss the issue.

“At times, the students are well behaved and for the most part we haven’t had a problem this year until the party to end all parties yesterday,” said Ritchie.

Bigger parties

Annett said she’s noticed the parties from the university crowd have grown in size over the years. She also thinks the size of the party could have to do with Dalhousie’s tougher stance on alcohol on campus.

This past September, the university banned booze during its orientation week in a “harm-reduction” effort.

“What they’ve done is they’ve extended the boundary … it’s almost like the boundary for residences have extended up here. There must be 20 or 30 students who live on this block,” said Annett.

Dalhousie’s next steps

Brian Leadbetter, a spokesperson for Dalhousie University, said the school participated in a cleanup of the neighbourhood after the parties were shut down on Saturday. He said a number of students living in the area also helped.

“We’re committed to being a good neighbour and we felt it was only appropriate for Dalhousie to participate in the clean up,” Leadbetter said.

Leadbetter said the university would be meeting with the neighbours in the coming days to hear their concerns as Dalhousie figures out its next steps.

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Dalhousie homecoming parties ‘like a carnival protest,’ says neighbour

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