'Reckless and destructive': Ontario university responds to gathering of nearly 5,000 people

A large gathering of people attending an event dubbed ‘fake homecoming,’ or ‘FOCO’ near McMaster University over the weekend has drawn criticism after police say they caused significant property damage and flipped a car.

McMaster president David Farrar says that “several thousand” people attended the event in the Ainslie Woods area of Hamilton and that “disruption [and] disrespect of property” occurred.

Hamilton Police Service (HPS) were called to attend the event just after 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 2. According to police, by 2 p.m., the crowd had grown to over 5,000 attendees.

Over the course of the day, police arrested and charged two individuals for Liquor Licence Act Offences, as well as five individuals for Breach of the Peace/Cause Disturbance.

Police are appealing for assistance in identifying those responsible for damaging and flipping over a white Mazda.

They say they have identified one potential suspect, describing him as a white male with brown hair, wearing a blue baseball cap, burgundy and yellow rugby shirt and khaki shorts.

Police added that “glass bottles, cans and other objects were thrown at officers and one police vehicle was damaged as a result.”

“There were no serious reported injuries, but several individuals were treated for injuries consistent with falling and other blunt forces as well as excessive alcohol consumption,” HPS says.

Farrar underlined that McMaster chose not to hold any official homecoming events this year and that “the vast majority of our students chose not to be part of the gathering.”

“Those who did, and especially those who chose to be reckless and destructive, put themselves and others at risk,” he said in a statement from the institution.

Hamilton City Councillor for Ward 1, Maureen Wilson, took to social media to address the gatherings.

“This is unacceptable [and] dangerous. Someone is going to get killed,” wrote Wilson on Twitter Saturday evening.

“[It’s] Past time for [McMaster University] to own this annual community debacle. Let's send them the bill for all policing, paramedic and clean-up costs. Mac President — get your house in order and stop trashing ours.”

This is unacceptable & dangerous. Someone is going to get killed. Past time for @McMasterU to own this annual community debacle. Let's send them the bill for all policing, paramedic & clean up costs. Mac President - get your house in order & stop trashing ours. pic.twitter.com/KIh6oIXq6I

— Maureen Wilson (She/Her) (@ward1wilson) October 3, 2021

Farrar has offered an apology on behalf of McMaster students.

“On their behalf, I apologize for this behaviour, particularly by those who caused damage and put anyone at risk. Such actions are completely unacceptable.”

He says that McMaster will cooperate in full with Hamilton police's investigation and that the school will "will use the Student Code of Conduct to sanction students who violated the Code’s tenets of behaviour." 

"McMaster students, and any others who chose to be part of the gathering of several thousand people in our community on Saturday, owe our neighbours, our emergency workers and every other student an apology." A message from McMaster president David Farrar: https://t.co/iAQuUn0LaX pic.twitter.com/sFlTEKTw6G

— McMaster University (@McMasterU) October 3, 2021