Police investigating ‘unnecessary and unacceptable’ behaviour during post-Panda Game party in Sandy Hill

Residents in Sandy Hill cleaned up from a night of post-Panda Game celebrations on Sunday, as Ottawa police began the investigation into what it called “unnecessary and unacceptable” behaviour during an “unsanctioned gathering” near the University of Ottawa campus.

Seven people have been arrested and dozens of tickets were handed out for open alcohol and excessive noise during festivities related to the football game. Police say officers are now collecting online and drone footage from the “unsanctioned gathering” on Somerset Street East as part of the investigation.

Thousands of people gathered on the streets of Sandy Hill hours after the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees beat the Carleton Ravens in the 53rd Panda Game at TD Place. Ottawa police officers, with assistance from the OPP, maintained an enhanced police presence in Sandy Hill, the ByWard Market and Old Ottawa South through the weekend.

“It was really wild. The streets were packed with people, there was garbage everywhere,” Christian Edgley said on Sunday. “The police did a very good job of moving everyone and keeping everyone secure; making sure everybody was safe.”

Police said after a quiet few hours in Sandy Hill, large crowds began gathering on Somerset Street East at about 8:30 p.m. 

“Many people in the crowd became belligerent and hostile and began committing illegal acts, including vandalism and throwing objects at police,” police said in a statement Sunday morning.

The Ottawa Police Twitter account urged students and partygoers to leave Sandy Hill “immediately,” as officers moved in to disperse the crowd. The crowds had been dispersed by 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

“A lot of police presence, which I thought was unnecessary. They dispersed the crowd more,” said one person in Sandy Hill on Sunday. “It was just a normal teenage party.”

On Sunday, Ottawa police said seven arrests have been made, and there are “multiple criminal investigations underway.” Investigators asked anyone with pictures or video of any illegal activities to email it to specialeventsCID@ottawapolice.ca.

“The Ottawa Police will also provide the names of university students charged with criminal offences to Carleton University and the University of Ottawa so that student conduct rules may be applied,” police said on Sunday.

The University of Ottawa apologized for the disruptions the large crowds caused to its neighbours in Sandy Hill, adding, “We will now take stock with our partners and discuss lessons learned.”

On Sunday morning, the cleanup of red cups, beer cans and other litter strewn on the streets was underway.

“The streets look alright,” said student Jack Hurley. “Hopefully, everyone did their part to clean up.”

Student Laura Chin adding, “I’m surprised it’s cleaner. I think we expected there to be more like glass shards and stuff.”

The University of Ottawa said on Twitter Sunday morning that it would “take stock and determine how to move forward” with the Panda Game in the future, but deleted the tweet.

For residents in Sandy Hill, they say they like the Panda Game, but have concerns.

“How much am I paying as a taxpayer to have that high of a police presence so that young people can have some kind of a party because they think they’re entitled to since they’re in university,” said Sandy Hill resident Dory Cameron.

An Ottawa police spokesperson told CTV News Ottawa last Thursday that a bill for policing the Panda Game will be sent to the universities.

“As in many university cities, some of the public safety costs related to the Panda Game are being billed back to the universities,” police said.

Police said as of 1:15 a.m. Sunday, seven people were arrested, including for public intoxication and mischief, and 88 tickets were issued for open alcohol. Ottawa Bylaw officers issued another 13 tickets worth $1,000 each for noise violations.

A total of seven vehicles were towed over the weekend, while 76 parking tickets were issued.

In a statement on Sunday afternoon, police said they developed a significant deployment plan to manage large crowds of students, to ensure no one was injured and the crowd was managed and dispersed.

“Police on the street, both Ottawa Police and OPP, were able to resolve issues and mitigate violence, injuries and significant damage. Officers and residents were subjected to belligerency and hostility,” police said.

“The post-game behaviour from university students and other individuals was unnecessary and unacceptable.”

Police had promised to take a “zero tolerance” approach to issues related to the Panda Game this year, after post-game festivities got out of control in Sandy Hill last year. In October 2021, festivities saw 2,000 people pack Russell Avenue in Sandy Hill, damaging property and flipping a vehicle. Eight people were charged with mischief, and two people were charged with taking part in a riot.

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