UPDATED: 200 people assessed, 10 hospitalized following 'unruly' Bluesfest crowd Thursday
What was supposed to be a night of mid-summer music descended quickly into chaos. Ottawa Bluesfest, with its lineup appealing to a younger crowd was marred by violence, rowdiness and drunkenness and there are questions tonight about whether Bluesfest has control over its Lebreton flats site.
Ottawa resident Sarah Taylor is trying to wash away the "residue" of last night's Bluesfest in her back yard. She lives on Booth Street, a block away from the festival site.
“From 6:00 to midnight, there will be a line-up of men along this fence behind me peeing,” she says.
She and some of the neighbours even took video and not just of men. Women, too, urinating, even defecating on their way to the festival and on their way home.
“Iwas shocked, absolutely,” says Taylor, “They're all back in here in the garden with their pants around their ankles and no shame.”
And problems weren’t occurring just off the festival site. Viewer video shows security chasing out groups of people who appear to be breaking into the festival Thursday night just before hip hop trio Migos was taking to the stage.
And video uploaded to the internet from the Ottawa Paramedics Association of the melee just outside the grounds. Paramedics say more than 200 people were assessed and 10 taken to hospital for anything from sexual assault to falls to alcohol and drugs. 6 of those were minors who were taken to CHEO. There were reports, too, of security guards being pelted with stones.
16-year-old Randi Larsen and 17-year-old Lorianne Younker are from PEI, in Ottawa to attend the Migos concert.
“We found a knife there on the ground,” says Larsen, “and we showed it to a security guard and he told us to put it back on the ground.”
The girls got more than they bargained for as fights broke out in front of them.
“They just started jumping one guy,” says Younker, “and then this guy came up with a bloody nose and it was crazy. I've never been to a concert like that. It was really fun except for the fights.”
“Last night brought out a crowd that was really quite unruly,” says Catherine McKenney, the Ottawa councillor for the area. Her kitchen overlooks the main stage. McKenney says overall, Bluesfest has been an enjoyable festival but this year, she says, it's gotten out of control and something needs to change.
“What extra measures do you put in place if you're pulling out a younger crowd, more susceptible to the types of issues we saw last night?”
On Friday afternoon, Bluesfest issued a statement saying members of the organizing team met with Ottawa Police and Paramedics to review the upcoming weekend's activities.
"Bluesfest organizers are not anticipating the same level of demand for emergency services this weekend, and will be prepared in any event," the statement read. "Ongoing discussions will take place during the post-festival period to review this year's safety protocols and to make plans for next year, ensuring that Bluesfest is a safe event for its patrons."
Organizers thanked first responders for their hard work following Thursday night's events, which they referred to as a "challenging situation."
The statement also said in-and-out privileges for Bluesfest pass holders have been reinstated for the remainder of the festival.