Residents, councillor want answers after Panda Game party turns into 'mayhem'

·3 min read
Partygoers flipped a car on Russell Avenue after the Panda Game on Saturday.  (Radio-Canada - image credit)
Partygoers flipped a car on Russell Avenue after the Panda Game on Saturday. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

Residents of Ottawa's Sandy Hill neighbourhood want to know how a street party after Saturday's football game turned violent, and they suggest cancelling next year's game.

Thousands of students descended onto Russell Street after the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees defeated their cross-town rival Carleton Ravens, 19-17, in the annual match-up affectionately called the Panda Game.

The street party grew as the night went on and eventually culminated in students flipping a car, while police say someone was assaulted.

The Panda Game aftermath has a history of turning into chaos, which is why residents of Sandy Hill urged police and local officials to prepare for Saturday, and the Ottawa Police Service had planned a larger presence.

The afternoon was considered under control, and "police were actually allowed to go home once the crowds dispersed," according to Coun. Diane Deans, who is the chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board.

"What the chief told me is that the unusual part of this event was that in past years we have not seen large groups of party revelers reconvene at night time ... and it took some time operationally to bring back members of the service," Deans said.

One Russell Street resident told CBC that police blocked off the section where the party was, which forced thousands into a small space where riot-like behaviour occurred.

Resident Paul Northcott also said a police officer told him there were only eight at the scene around 9 p.m. when more officers were called in.

"It's obvious they were totally unprepared for the nighttime and I ... understand that, but it sure as heck took them a long time to get here," said Northcott.

WATCH | Police caught off-guard by nighttime party:

Cancel next year's Panda Game, councillor says

Community group Action Sandy Hill has repeatedly spoken out about Panda Game parties.

Then on Monday the group released a statement questioning the future of the Panda Game due to "this year's escalation and the ... collective failure to mount an effective response to the mayhem."

Coun. Mathieu Fleury, whose ward includes Sandy Hill, met Monday with representatives from the University of Ottawa, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly about the parties.

Fleury said he is not happy police squeezed students into a small stretch of road.

"The approach of closing the street right before 8 p.m. was a mistake instead of pushing and managing the three, four party sites that were getting out of control," he said

"As soon as the street was closed, obviously police resources were limited, and that encouraged the massive gatherings and further on — the illegalism that we saw."

Fleury wants criminal charges laid and next year's Panda Game suspended, which he says prevented massive parties when he attended the U of O.

WATCH | Police presence at Panda Game should have extended later into the evening, mayor says

Mayor Jim Watson told CBC cancelling the game would, however, be a "draconian" measure.

"We [will] have to ensure we have a police presence there much longer than 7 p.m., even though it looks quite calm and quite peaceful," Watson said.

He suggested on game day next year that barricades be put up on Russell Street so that only those who live on the street would be allowed on it.

Ottawa police are investigating this year's party and will charge the organizers if appropriate, he said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting