Police respond to gathering of around 1,000 people on Ezra Avenue

Waterloo regional police responded to a large gathering with around 1,000 people in attendance on Ezra Avenue on Monday evening.

Officers received reports of the gathering around 9:45 p.m. in the area of Ezra Avenue and King Street North in Waterloo. Police said Wilfrid Laurier University's special constable service, bylaw officers and the Waterloo Fire Department also responded to the incident.

A large chair was set on fire and extinguished, police said. No one was injured in that incident.

Police said they also received suspicious persons calls, adding people were seen walking on private properties in the area on Monday evening.

Emergency crews dispersed a crowd of around 1,000 people, according to police.

City officials cleaned up garbage and broken glass from the area once following the gathering.

Police also responded to a gathering of more than 200 people on Ezra Avenue on Sunday evening around 9:30 p.m.

"The best way to describe it was a street party that went a little too far," said Matthew Spina, who witnessed the Monday night party from his front porch on Erza Avenue. "It does get a little extreme when you're vandalizing, stepping on cars, creating a mess on the street."

"It did seem like a lot of fun, just not the most responsible," said Adam Lines, who lives on Ezra Avenue.

Officials with Wilfrid Laurier University sent out a statement in response to the gatherings on Tuesday.

"These gatherings were in flagrant violation of Ontario’s public health measures and extremely disrespectful to our community," the statement from Deborah L. MacLatchy, WLU's president and vice-chancellor, said in part. "There is zero tolerance for this behaviour at Laurier."

MacLatchy's statement went on to say police and special constables are going through video footage to "identify those who engaged in illegal activities."

"Those identified will be facing suspension and/or expulsion from the university, may face fines for violating the Reopening Ontario Act, and could face criminal charges related to vandalism," she said.

She added there will be an increased security presence on and around campus to "ensure this behaviour stops immediately."

"We have seen how very real the threat of COVID-19 and its variants can be in our community. Students must take their responsibility as community members seriously. Reckless behaviour will not be tolerated as it is putting the most vulnerable in our community at risk and tarnishing the reputation of students and our university," MacLatchy's statement said.

"The health and safety of our community, our students, the greater Waterloo Region is the utmost priority," Ivan Joseph, Laurier's vice president of student affairs, said Tuesday.

He reiterated the university's pledge to hold the partygoers accountable.

"That can range from academic suspension all the way to expulsion," Joseph said. "We take these matters serious."

Police encourage students and other community members to follow all public health measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"There just has to be one person in that group that's not vaccinated or one person who feels symptoms," said Mikaela Atyeo, who lives on Ezra Avenue.