Nova Scotia

'Relax, we are double vaxxed': Hundreds of Dalhousie students attend street party

Despite ongoing gathering limits in the province, hundreds of Dalhousie students attended a street party in Halifax on Saturday.

Police worked to control the crowd in central Halifax

A jubilant reveler is shown behind police tape on Jennings Street. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Despite gathering restrictions in the province, hundreds of Dalhousie University students took part in a homecoming street party in Halifax on Saturday.

They poured into several streets near campus, some setting off fireworks on the way.

As of 6 p.m. AT, a number of smaller groups could still be seen in the area.

On Friday, the university issued a news release that said it was aware of "large, unsanctioned parties being planned off campus."

It reminded students that large gatherings during the pandemic posed a risk to the community and said the university fully supported work by the police to deter "unsafe and disrespectful behaviours."

Police kept a watchful eye on the gathering Saturday afternoon. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Halifax Regional Police also issued a release on Friday saying it would continue its presence in university neighbourhoods on the weekend to discourage unruly behaviour and ensure public health guidelines were being observed.

But the warnings didn't deter the hundreds of students attending Saturday afternoon's street party.

Sarah McLean, left, and Dillen Oliver said students needed to celebrate. (Jeorge Sadi)

Many stated that they were fully vaccinated. They said that made the gathering less risky, although immunization does not guarantee 100 per cent protection from the virus.

Dillen Oliver, a second-year arts and science student, said almost all students are fully vaccinated. After a bad year, they just wanted to celebrate. 

"We've been shut down for a year now," she said. "Most of us didn't have a good first-year experience so now that the majority of Nova Scotia is double vaxxed we deserve to have a little bit of benefits."

There was a heavy police presence near the gathering with police eventually blocking off some streets. Mounted police were also in evidence and an EHS vehicle was parked on Preston Street.

One resident said police did a better job dispersing the crowd last year. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Some residents thought the police presence in previous years was more effective in breaking up the gathering.

Dr. Caitlin Lees, who lives on Jennings Street, said police acted swiftly last year to clamp down on things, but that wasn't evident this year.

"I'm disappointed," Lees said. "I think that right now, given the size of things, it's simply not possible for police to stop this easily.

"We're all very tired of restrictions and all concerned about increasing community spread ... and so to see their risk in this situation is disheartening and frightening, particularly given what's happening in other provinces like Alberta." 

Anna Leaper, an immunology student on her way home from work, said getting students together to meet after a year of online schooling was important, but she agreed that it should not have been on the street.

Noah Lux, left, and Eric Butler are first-year students who say the event made them feel like things were back to normal. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Other students were considerably less circumspect about the party. 

Eric Butler and Noah Lux, both first-year students from Toronto, said they heard about the party through social media and word of mouth.

"It feels pretty good to be in a large group of people and get back to normal," Lux said.

While the party was broken up late Saturday afternoon, another gathering happened Saturday evening on Jennings Street, attracting huge crowds.

Halifax police say thousands of people attended the Saturday evening gathering. (Mark Doiron/Radio-Canada)

In a news release issued Sunday morning, Halifax Regional Police said they arrested nine men and one woman for public intoxication. They also issued "numerous" tickets for carrying open liquor.

The release said there were thousands of people in the street.

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With files from Vernon Ramesar, Melissa Friedman and Richard Woodbury

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