HALIFAX — Nearly two dozen partygoers were arrested after a series of off-campus celebrations for Dalhousie University's homecoming weekend overran a Halifax neighbourhood.
Police estimate up to 2,000 people swarmed the city's south end for a booze-fuelled bash, leading to 22 arrests and a number of fines for bylaw violations including disturbing the peace and public intoxication.
Sgt. Darla Perry of the Halifax Regional Police said officers caught wind of social-media rumblings about planned house parties in the area before homecoming festivities started underway Friday night.
By Saturday morning, the revelry had spilled onto the residential streets, Perry said, and about 20 officers were dispatched to the scene.
You got actual lives to save, but you'd rather be watching a university party.
Emergency vehicles crawled through the sea of yellow and black — Dalhousie's official colours — while responders tried to block off the roads and disperse the unsanctioned party, Perry said.
Young people drank from open containers on lawns, porches and verandas with little regard for private property, she said.
Videos uploaded to social media show the normally sleepy neighbourhood teeming with partiers, some of whom were ushered into the backs of police cars while the crowd chanted obscenities at officers.
"You got actual lives to save, but you'd rather be watching a university party," a woman can be heard saying in one video.
Perry said police do not condone disrespectful behaviour, but it was unsafe for officers to respond to the taunts because they were outnumbered. Their main goal was to keep people safe, she said, and no one was injured during the incident.
University officials have denounced the gathering, with Dalhousie President Richard Florizone tweeting that the university is considering taking disciplinary actions against some of the students involved.
"We're certainly going to be looking at this incident around this year and look at making improvements as we move forward," said university spokesperson Brian Leadbetter.
Leadbetter said there's been a "growing movement: surrounding homecoming season on Canadian campuses, which he attributes to increased student involvement and the broad reach of social media.
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From bars to ragers
He said other universities have seen similar disturbances over the years.
Earlier this month, police in London, Ont., responded to an unauthorized street party they said resulted in 37 people being taken to hospital, more than 60 charges being laid and nearly a thousand warnings issued.
It's this sort of homecoming-related ruckus that worries the residents who live near Dalhousie's main campus, said Coun. Waye Mason, who represents the south-end district.
As student housing has become more concentrated, Mason said the drinking culture has shifted from bars to residential "ragers."
It's important that students who come in here and the students who are here now understand that kind of behaviour will not be tolerated.Coun. Waye Mason
He said Saturday's block party was unprecedented for the area, and long-time residents worry their student neighbours may eventually become a hazard to their homes.
In 2005, a car was flipped over and set on fire during homecoming celebrations at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., said Mason, and his constituents don't want to see something like that happen in their own backyards.
"We don't want that to happen in this neighbourhood," he said. "It's important that students who come in here and the students who are here now understand that kind of behaviour will not be tolerated."
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