News - All - 10 Sep 2019
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Miscellaneous: 10 Sep 2019
Ezra street party is a ‘riot scenario,’ Waterloo council told
WATERLOO — Ezra Avenue landlord Mike Milovick is fed up with street party mayhem on his street.
|Waterloo Regional Police officers watch over a large Homecoming crowd on Ezra Avenue in Waterloo in 2017. “We have a responsibility of ensuring public safety,” Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin told Waterloo council. - Brent Davis , Waterloo Region Record file photo |
"We are dealing with a riot scenario," he told Waterloo council Monday, citing vandalism, public urination, and other impacts. "Strong, decisive action needs to be taken."
"I'm revolted," said Candace Duke, a former Ezra Avenue landlord who recently sold her property there. "It's just spiralling out of control."
Waterloo councillors are also keen to end the unlawful street parties that draw tens of thousands of students and reportedly cost the public $1 million a year to manage.
"I believe people are likely getting raped on Ezra," Coun. Jen Vasic said.
"This money can be so much better spent," Coun. Tenille Bonoguore said, citing homelessness and drug addiction and climate change.
But councillors had more questions than solutions Monday.
A community task force reported to council on the washrooms, garbage bins and street closures that are planned to control the next street party, anticipated Sept. 28 during Homecoming at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Coun. Diane Freeman wondered if such measures might be seen as efforts to make the next street party better.
"We have a responsibility of ensuring public safety," Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin said.
Charges laid in wake of Ezra Avenue street party
Ezra street parties are 'a rite of passage' not easily ended, Waterloo task force warns
Larkin warned council that taxpayer expenses to manage Ezra parties will not go away soon. The task force says attending street parties has become a "rite of passage" for students.
"I think this will ramp up before we ramp down," Larkin said. "There's no magic wand. In the interim we have to make sure we have a safe environment for all."
Bonoguore asked if steps planned to control the next Homecoming party wrongly indicate to partiers that city hall has approved the gathering.
"Is this sanctioning by stealth?" she said. "How is this going to help us start turning the tide?"
City staff agreed with police that for safety reasons, the city must take measures to help manage the crowd.
Freeman said some people have asked her why police haven't turned water cannons on students.
"I don't think it's the way we do business in our community," Larkin said. He argued that police have to act lawfully, and he denied that police have been soft-handed with partiers.
Larkin said shutting down Ezra Avenue in advance would likely move the party elsewhere.
Some councillors took aim at Laurier, saying the university needs to take more responsibility for parties that arise out of the school's party reputation.
"Your reputation is not great," Bonoguore told David McMurray, Laurier's vice-president of student affairs.
She asked if Laurier is interested in running an alternate event to draw students away from Ezra.
"The straight answer is no," McMurray said. "The university is not interested in owning the event. We think that is counterproductive."
Laurier previously helped organize a beer tent during St. Patrick's Day and it simply drew more students including to Ezra, he said.
Freeman said people have suggested to her that street parties are part of Laurier's brand.
"I think they need to know more about our brand," McMurray said. "This is not a part of our brand whatsoever."
McMurray said Homecoming is an important event for alumni. Universities that have cancelled homecomings to prevent street parties have seen gatherings erupt regardless.
"Cancelling Homecoming is not a simple solution," he said. "I think the solution is to continue to stay the course, with the task force."
Coun. Royce Bodaly said not all students should be painted badly for attending street parties.
He said he would have attended the parties had they happened when he was a Laurier student two decades ago. "I don't think that reflects poorly on me," he said.
While concerned about safety, he doubts the parties will wind down in the next few years.
A year ago it's estimated that 14,000 people partied on Ezra in the largest homecoming party ever. This was followed in March by a St. Patrick's Day party that drew an estimated 33,000 people, the largest crowd ever.
When students returned to campus Sept. 2, an estimated 1,000 people swarmed to Ezra, where someone torched a couch and mattress. Police have since charged a boy, 17, with arson and mischief.
Jeff Outhit Waterloo Region Record/AA
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