A college in London, Ont., has suspended eight students following a St. Patrick's Day riot over the weekend that caused an estimated $100,000 damage and has now led to 13 arrests.
Howard Rundle, the president of Fanshawe College, told a news conference today the administration was taking the off-campus violence seriously and would be conducting its own investigation alongside police efforts.
Under the school's student code of conduct, Fanshawe can impose academic penalties on students whose off-campus actions might affect the health and safety of others in the college community.
'This is unacceptable. It will not be tolerated. It will not be excused. And we will not have those people as students of this college.' — Howard Rundle, Fanshawe College president
Fanshawe officials issued interim suspensions for six students on Sunday and two more students on Monday, Rundle said.
"Sadly, I must say the actions of some of our students not only endangered themselves but put our emergency responders and our community at risk," Rundle told reporters. "This is unacceptable. It will not be tolerated. It will not be excused. And we will not have those people as students of this college."
St. Patrick's Day celebrations in London took a nasty turn late Saturday when parties spilled on to the street. On Fleming Drive, an area near Fanshawe College where many students live, the crowd swelled to as many as 1,000 people.
Police have since arrested at least 13 people, London police Const. Dennis Rivest told CBC News Monday.
At least eight of those arrested were identified as Fanshawe College students. Those arrested face charges that include unlawful assembly, assaulting police and resisting arrest, police said.
The president of the Fanshawe Student Union, Veronica Barahona, said her organization was taking the "disheartening" incidents seriously.
"If these students are found to be responsible for this extreme level of disobedience, we believe the college should take appropriate actions," she said.
Barahona and other students now worry about the reputation their school and community has gained.
"It's so unfortunate that incidents like this do happen and how much it takes away from the college and the students that are doing really, really good things in our community… it's just very disheartening," she said.
Fanshawe student Stephanie Fay told CBC News the riot began as students grew angry at the police presence on the streets.
"It started off as people getting angry at the police for staying on the streets while everyone was trying to party, then it escalated to people pelting cop cars with bottles and more," Fay said.
"People started shaking the car, then proceeded to jump on it, with a stop sign, and attempting to shove the sign through the roof of the car.
"People then flipped the car and lit it on fire," she said. "I was around 10 metres away from the car when it blew up. I watched the riot for a bit then decided to leave before things got even worse. I even got a beer bottle to the leg, which left me with a bruise."
Mayor to look at zoning, curfew laws
Earlier Monday, the mayor of London said the neighbourhood may face tougher curfew and zoning rules and a stronger police presence as the city cracks down on student hooliganism.
Joe Fontana told CBC News city officials are "disappointed" and "disgusted" with Saturday's riot on Fleming Drive. London authorities will look at all options to prevent future violence, he said.
"The police presence, which was there on Saturday in pretty significant numbers, has to be embedded in that community," Fontana said. "We will be talking with the owners of these homes that rent to these students that want to be irresponsible. And we will be looking at zoning and curfew laws. We will be looking at all of these things to ensure that this thing doesn't happen again."
Earlier Monday, Rundle told CBC News he agreed with Fontana's proposal to use zoning and curfew rules to prevent similar riots. Using these bylaws or other options to break up student enclaves, such as the large concentration of students on Fleming Drive, would help prevent parties from swelling to uncontrollable levels, Rundle said.
"If these students were scattered in housing throughout the city — and they all have bus passes so transportation should not be a big issue — then this kind of explosive amalgamation of people won't happen. … If that zone can be broken up, then yes, I think that should probably prevent further occurrence."
Witnesses turn over social media evidence
Fontana urged participants in the riot to turn themselves in before they are caught.
Authorities were combing through all the evidence, including a lot of video and social media offered by students who were "embarrassed" about what happened, he added.
"Fellow students who are, in fact, embarrassed about what happened were taking videos, they're providing us information. So social media is a very, very good tool, as you know, sometimes, to be able to connect the dots, look for evidence. There is an awful lot of it."
Rundle also announced Monday that Fanshawe has created a secure email address for students to send in tips, digital photos, video and other evidence in connection with the riot.
Firefighters were the first to respond on Saturday, arriving to deal with a reported brush fire on Fleming Drive, just east of the college, at 10 p.m. They had to call for police backup after they came under attack by people throwing bottles and bricks.
About 50 police officers responded and the crowd continued to grow to about 1,000 people, many of them students, who surrounded a TV news truck that had been tipped over and set on fire.
London police Chief Brad Duncan said Sunday the "severity of this mob mentality could easily have resulted in death."
"Every one of our members in attendance on Fleming Drive was assaulted last night," he said Sunday.
"They were literally attacked with full bottles of beer and liquor, bricks, wood planks, two-by-fours, debris, tires, rims and other various items. In addition, members of the crowd used laser pointers aimed at our officers' eyes to try to disrupt our response."