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LONDON (CUP) — What started out as a St. Patrick’s Day party spiraled out of control on Fleming Drive in London, Ont. this past weekend.
Fleming Drive, located near Fanshawe College, is a student enclave with a history of violent crimes and out-of-control parties — though none as large as this year’s incident, where around 1,000 people were involved in a riot that included thrown beer bottles, destroyed property, police vehicles pelted with bricks, police officers assaulted and a CTV news van set on fire. Initial estimations of the cost of the damages caused to vehicles, street pavement and light standards, as well as cleanup costs for the neighbourhood were close to $100,000.00.
“Last night, London experienced the worst case of civil disobedience that our community has ever been subjected to,” said London Police Chief Brad Duncan at a March 18 news conference. “Never in my 32 years as a police officer have I observed behaviours that escalated to the point that there was risk that individuals could be seriously hurt or killed.
“The Fleming Drive area has been the subject of much discussion over the last several years and recently our efforts during Project LEARN, our fall back-to-school initiative, was seemingly making a big difference in terms of negative student behaviour,” he continued. “I reference students; however, we are aware that the large street parties, that have been the pattern for the area, also attract other attendees who are not necessarily students.”
Fanshawe College president Dr. Howard Rundle added that while there were hundreds of Fanshawe College students present at the riots, the crowd also included underage students from area high schools, students from other institutions and visitors from out of town.
Six Fanshawe students were placed on suspension by the College over the weekend, and another two students were suspended on the morning of March 19. On March 21, London Police confirmed that 15 individuals have been arrested to date, 6 of whom are current Fanshawe students. Three arrests were made for public intoxication, while a total of 19 criminal charges were laid, ranging from unlawful assembly and resisting arrest to mischief under $5,000 and assaulting police with a weapon. London Police identified 10 of those charged, while two cannot be named as they are young offenders.
Rundle said he was “extremely disappointed in the behaviours of all individuals who were involved in the incidents” and said he is taking the matter very seriously. “This is unacceptable. It will not be tolerated. It will not be excused … We will not have students who behave this way in our college community,” he said.
“Moving forward, it is obvious that the students and residents in the area are under the illusion that they can engage in unlawful behaviour; that they can commit serious criminal offences with impunity; and that they can reject the lawful authority of police and other emergency services personnel,” said Duncan. “As Chief of Police, responsible for the safety and security of our citizens, I can emphatically state that we will not tolerate this lack of respect for our community, our laws and specifically this neighbourhood. I have directed that we maximize our resources in terms of visibility and strict law enforcement. We already have a team of investigators reviewing statements, video and witness information.”
“We need to focus on working together with police and the city to ensure this never happens again,” Rundle added.
To assist in the investigation, the College has set up an email account for people to forward video and/or information about the incident, and witnesses with information are also being encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers or London Police directly.