St. Patrick’s Day attendance hits record number, approximately 30,000 participate in unsanctioned events

Large crowds took to Ezra Avenue this past Sunday Mar. 17 on St. Patrick’s Day. 

Although Waterloo Regional Police Services and partners who helped provide services on Sunday have not released official statistics and numbers, it is predicted that the crowds surpassed last year’s 22,000 attendees and may have hit closer to 30,000. 

Constable Ashley Dietrich, public information officer for WRPS, held a press release around 3 p.m. on Sunday where an update was given on the day and events at Ezra Avenue. Dietrich stated that WRPS and partners had been working to provide public safety services and crowd management; however, both Bricker Avenue and Ezra Avenue had been shut down at that point in order to keep crowds contained.  In the press release, Dietrich began stating WRPS’ disappointment by some of the people in attendance at the Ezra street party. At that point, there had been reports of damaged property, bottles and other objects being thrown into the crowd and injuries due to slips and falls. 

In the press release, Paramedic Services said that at that point there had been 41 calls and 18 transports to the hospital. Paramedics stated that the Ezra street party was overwhelming their services and ability to keep up with calls around the rest of Waterloo. Although York Region Paramedics were in attendance, they were shadowing Waterloo Paramedics. 

"Going forward, Laurier will continue to communicate regularly with students around Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day to discourage unsanctioned street gatherings, and we will continue to work with the partners at the City of Waterloo, Waterloo Regional Police, and emergency services toward a solution.”

According to the press release, the majority of the EMS calls were due to alcohol and drug misuse, falls, fractures, head injuries, couldn't say if any were serious 

Waterloo Fire said they responded to 18 calls. Many were related to elevator entrapment due to over occupancy and personnel jumping in elevators. The number of arrests, tickets and calls to WRPS are currently unknown. However, Dietrich said many of the current charges laid were related to underage drinking, open alcohol, public intoxication, damage to public property and more. 

“It is unfortunate that the unsanctioned St. Patrick’s Day street gathering in Waterloo continues to grow. These kinds of unsanctioned gatherings are a growing problem for many communities that are home to universities and colleges. Although Laurier and its external partners prepared for the anticipated crowd growth, we continue to actively discourage this kind of unsanctioned street gathering. Our primary concern is for the safety of our students and members of the surrounding community,” Leanne Holland-Brown wrote in a statement to The Cord. 

“Reports this year of violence and the throwing of rocks and other objects is particularly concerning. We worry for the safety of all.”

“Laurier is taking an active role in a number of initiatives aimed at reducing the size of these unsanctioned street gatherings and ultimately ending them. Representatives from the university and its student leadership are active members of the Mayor of Waterloo’s Task Force on Unsanctioned Public Gatherings, which is looking for longer-term solutions. As part of the task force activities, Laurier is hosting a World Café consultation session with students on Monday, Mar. 25 to better understand their views and suggestions,” the statement continued. 

“In addition, Laurier is working with other universities that experience unsanctioned street gatherings. Laurier hosted a conference on Feb. 15 that attracted representatives from nine universities and three communities, all of whom are looking for solutions to this growing phenomenon. Going forward, Laurier will continue to communicate regularly with students around Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day to discourage unsanctioned street gatherings, and we will continue to work with the partners at the City of Waterloo, Waterloo Regional Police, and emergency services toward a solution.” 

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