Update: Post-Panda crowd sees seven arrests; police seek video evidence of 'unacceptable' behaviour – Ottawa Citizen

  • October 3, 2022

The Ottawa Police Service said it will provide the names of students charged with criminal offences to Carleton University and the University of Ottawa so student conduct rules may be applied
Seven people were arrested and investigations are underway after large crowds gathered in Sandy Hill Saturday night following the day’s Panda Game, with police remaining in the neighbourhood into the early hours of Sunday.

In a media release Sunday morning, the Ottawa Police Service described “unacceptable, dangerous and, in some cases, criminal,” behaviour by revellers. “Many” people in the crowd, police said, were belligerent and hostile, and began committing illegal acts, including vandalism and throwing objects at police.
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Police added that they have video evidence and asked members of the public who may have any additional videos or photos of any Panda Game-related incidents to contact police. Police say they will provide the names of university students charged with criminal offences to Carleton University and the University of Ottawa so student conduct rules may be applied.

In addition to the seven arrests, which include charges for public intoxication and mischief, police said seven vehicles were towed, 88 provincial offence notices were given out for open alcohol, two tickets were issued by the traffic unit for loud mufflers and 76 parking tickets were handed out. Thirteen noise bylaw tickets were issued, as was one for littering.

A member of the Ottawa Paramedic Service confirmed that paramedics responded to 12 calls related to the Panda Game festivities. Of the one dozen people they assessed, four were transported to hospital, all in stable condition.

In a Sunday afternoon tweet, the University of Ottawa addressed neighbourhood residents.

“We regret the disruptions that the large crowds caused our neighbours in some areas of Sandy Hill,” the university posted. “We will now take stock with our partners and discuss lessons learned.”

But some residents feel this weekend provided the final nail in the game’s coffin.

“I think you’ve seen the last Panda Game because of this,” said Russell Avenue resident Brian Beesley, as he and his wife walked around the neighbourhood shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday.

“I’m shocked and appalled,” he added. “This is unbelievable. There are at least a thousand people on Somerset, and people keep coming. It’s early, and we don’t know what’s coming next.

“We’ve spent the day waiting for this to happen, thinking maybe it won’t, maybe it won’t. But this is a mob.”

As he spoke, a hurled glass bottle smashed on the road nearby, one of many drink cans and bottles indiscriminately tossed.

“This is f—ed,” one attendee said. “I just got hit.”

Between 10 and 11 p.m., with washrooms being at a premium, numerous people were seen going into alleyways and backyards. By 11 o’clock, the crowd on Somerset near Russell was far smaller than it had been two hours earlier, but a few hundred people still mingled there amidst empty drink bottles and cans with a boom box set to heavy bass.

Other groups milled about on other streets or wandered in all directions in groups of two, five or 10 or more. Lots headed west, towards the uOttawa campus.

“You going back home?” one person asked another. “No,” the other said, laughing. “To the bar.”

Earlier in the day, many noted the increased police presence over last year’s force, with numerous Ontario Provincial Police officers augmenting uniformed Ottawa Police Service counterparts in the area. The aim was to prevent a repeat of last year’s post-Panda Game events, when things got out of hand as thousands of partiers took to the streets, causing damage to property, including, in one case, flipping a car over and trying to set it alight.

At dusk, it seemed the large police contingent was having the desired effect, but nervous residents waited and watched, as they had done throughout the day, fearing the calm might burst at any moment.

Steve Higham, who lives on the block between Somerset Street East and Templeton Avenue — the eye of last year’s riot — erected temporary construction fencing in front of his and two neighbours’ houses. Others in the same block hoped yellow caution tape would be enough to discourage the house-climbers and defecators that plagued them a year ago.

“Some of my neighbours consider this a traumatizing event, and the neighbourhood as a whole goes into this weekend with a lot of trepidation, anxiety and fear,” Higham said.

Why that particular block? Higham said a frat house that existed there about a decade ago and received free beer from a brewery, setting a precedent.

While the frat house no longer exists, the tradition does.

“The only thing easier than Carleton boys is their football team,” read one sign painted on a bedsheet and displayed for all to see. Another asked, “What does a Carleton grad call a uOttawa grad?” (“Boss” was the answer provided.)

Higham added there was reason for “cautious optimism,” however, following criticism of police responses to both last year’s post-Panda activities and last winter’s occupation of parts of downtown Ottawa by the “Freedom Convoy.”

“Those are going to be very motivating for the police to get a win,” Higham predicted. “Nobody wants to see the police out in riot gear. We just want them to be out and visible so people know that they can’t be out carrying alcohol and spilling onto the street. Something has to happen before that gets out of control.

“The police didn’t have a (Panda Game) plan last year beyond 6 p.m., but we know a lot of planning has gone into that this year.”

One convenience store worker, who asked not to be named, said that last year’s post-Panda scene was “terrible.”

“Students were coming in here and just taking things and then leaving, and I couldn’t do anything to stop them.”

This year, he said, more police were on hand in the morning as many students made their way through the neighbourhood to an organized pre-game tailgate party at Sandy Hill Arena.

“The police came in and talked with me and gave me a number to call if there are any problems.”

One 79-year-old woman stood outside her property, shooing away uOttawa fans who got out of a car in front of her. “Go away,” she told them. “No parties.” The woman said she hoped the police presence would be greater this year and she hoped the officers would stay until one or two in the morning.

Another Russell Avenue resident strung yellow caution tape in front of her home to try to remind students to be respectful.

“My partner and I were outside for seven hours last year,” Meagan LaRose recalled. “I had eggs thrown at me and people screaming in my face. It was not a fun night.

“And this is not new,” she added. “It was on the news last year because they overturned a car, but in 2018 they were climbing on people’s porch roofs and peeing in people’s gardens. And we don’t find the university is taking it seriously.”

This year, she added, residents set up a group chat whereby they could reach others if they felt unsafe. “But there’s really nothing else we can do. And we don’t want to antagonize anyone.”

The bombardment of parties in the area, LaRose added, “is one of the main things that propels people to move out of the neighbourhood.”

Higham wasn’t going anywhere, at least not Saturday night, as he and his family and a guest stayed home and waited to see what would happen.

“It was like a zombie apocalypse last year,” he said, “and I’d be far more anxious if I weren’t here tonight.”

Meanwhile, as darkness fell, Russell Avenue resident Dominic Salotti said he didn’t want to paint the issue strictly as residents versus students, adding that some students he knew in the area were similarly frightened by last year’s problems.

“We all have a right to live in a healthy, vibrant and safe community, for ourselves and our children, just like the Glebe, like Rockcliffe, like Kanata. Like anywhere else,” Salotti said. “We hope everyone’s having fun, and we hope everyone’s having fun respectfully. And we’re glad that people are safe this year.

“So far.”

Third-year uOttawa political science/history student Mica Oestreich, who lives on Russell Avenue, as he did last year, said he didn’t feel this year’s larger police presence was out of line.

“I thought that last year the police might’ve helped exacerbate the situation by trying to cram everybody into one area. They had fenced the area and tried to cram everybody into a block. It was bodies on bodies,” Oestreich said. “I’ve liked the strategy this year, with people dispersed into a wider area. That seems to be the biggest change, and I think it’s a good change.

“I can’t blame them for wanting to keep things safe after last year. It did get out of hand.”

Oestreich added that he didn’t feel anyone’s ability to party this year had been threatened by police.

“I’ve passed 15 parties. I think people are fine.”

But by 9 p.m., those house parties had made their way onto the streets and sidewalks. The intersection of Somerset St. East was pretty much impassable west of Chapel Avenue.

At about that time, one resident, Gordon Johnson, watched the scene from his second-storey balcony on Sweetland Avenue, noting that, apart from the size of the crowd, people seem generally well-behaved.

“I saw one guy arrested. He threw something at the police,” Johnson said. “But this is the best I’ve seen it in three years. I think all the extra police have helped. I’ve never seen so many here.”

Nearby, one young man sat on the road with his hands behind him in cuffs. A block away, another was passed out on the sidewalk.

As crowds mounted, police posted that officers were “working to disperse crowds in Sandy Hill. Objects are being thrown at officers — this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated. Police operations will continue into the morning.”

“Please avoid the area. We are asking partygoers in the Sandy Hill area to go home,” police added.

City of Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services had also committed to an “increased presence” in Sandy Hill and near Carleton University throughout the evening.

In response to large crowd gatherings in the Sandy Hill community, we ask our students to vacate the area immediately.  Please. Help us #SavethePanda

In response to large crowd gatherings in the Sandy Hill community, we ask our students to vacate the area immediately. Please help us #SavethePanda

With files from Postmedia staff

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