Thousands of people descended on Ottawa’s Sandy Hill area following the annual Panda Game football match on Saturday, with partygoers flipping a vehicle on Russell Avenue.
According to Ottawa police, most of the afternoon following the game between the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens — a fall football tradition — was considered under control. But the situation quickly soured in the evening.
Police had a large presence ready most of the day. But when officers and members of the force’s emergency services unit were re-deployed after 8 p.m. ET, following reports of large crowds gathering, the avenue was overrun.
“By the time we showed up, there was one vehicle that was flipped and damaged right on the streets,” Ottawa police’s central division told CBC News Sunday morning.
No arrests were made and the crowd began dispersing once officers arrived, police said.
Paramedics confirmed seven people were taken to the hospital but no major injuries were reported.
Steve Higham only moved to Russell Avenue a few weeks ago. Realizing thousands of people were outside his home, Higham decided to stand watch outside to ensure no damage was done to his property.
“I’m not opposed to people having fun street parties,” he said. “But clearly things got out of hand, which was disappointing and doesn’t bode well for the future of the Panda Game parties.”
The Sandy Hill resident wishes police had acted sooner, even if most partygoers were polite and well behaved.
“You could hear the crowd amping up in the noise, getting louder, and then looking up the street, people had decided to flip a car over and at that point, it felt like, ‘OK, things are clearly getting out of hand.'”
‘Is this really worth the Panda Game?’
Coun. Mathieu Fleury, who represents the Rideau-Vanier ward, called the aftermath of the game “disappointing.”
“Now you have people like me — who are elected officials [and] I’m a fan of sports — saying, ‘Is this really worth the Panda Game?'”
While the football game between the rival teams has a long history of student partying, the councilllor said he’s never seen problems of this magnitude following a match.
“If we can’t be a mature city, where young people can have fun but have fun respectfully in a licensed environment, there’s going to need to be consequences,” he told Radio-Canada in English.
On Sunday, Mayor Jim Watson tweeted he spoke to the Ottawa Police Service, which is now conducting investigations to ensure those who participated are held responsible. He called the behaviour “idiotic” and “immature.”
I’ve spoken to the Chief of Police and OPS is now conducting several investigations to ensure those responsible are dealt with in the judicial system. This kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable, and those<br>involved should be ashamed of their idiotic & immature behaviour.2/
Ottawa police are investigating the matter and reviewing social media, videos and other information to identify those involved, according to a news release issued by the force Sunday afternoon.
“In some cases, the crowds became very disruptive,” the release said. It said a car was overturned and a person was assaulted in one incident.
“These behaviours are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Police will lay criminal charges, or applicable charges under the Reopening Ontario Act, Liquor Licence Act and city bylaws, if evidence allows, the release said.
Ottawa police are expected to work with staff from both universities where appropriate.
In a statement, University of Ottawa president and vice-chancellor Jacques Frémont said the students’ actions were “shameful and unacceptable.”
“If you were part of the crowds that were responsible for the damage and disrespect last night, then you must do better,” he wrote.
Frémont also said he regretted any fear and anxiety that was caused to Sandy Hill residents.
“Sandy Hill is our home, and you – its residents – are our valued neighbours,” he said. “The actions of those who have so disrespected our community are deeply distressing to us, as they are to our community as a whole.”
Out of control street parties should never be a feature of life at uOttawa. This is a hard lesson for all of us, and we must learn from these events. We will work closely with our partners <a href=”https://twitter.com/OttawaPolice?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@OttawaPolice</a>, <a href=”https://twitter.com/ottawacity?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@ottawacity</a>, student leaders <a href=”https://twitter.com/seuo_uosu?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@seuo_uosu</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/ASH_ACS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@ASH_ACS</a> to see they do not reoccur.
The Gee-Gees defeated the Carleton Ravens Saturday afternoon 19-17.