Western University's 'FOCO' ends in over 60 charges, 37 hospitalized
London police say the so-called "fake homecoming party" on Saturday was attended by nearly 11,000 people and stretched emergency services too thin.
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LONDON, Ont. — Police say they have laid dozens of charges following an unsanctioned weekend street party attended by roughly 11,000 people in the university town of London, Ont.
London police say the so-called "fake homecoming party" on Saturday stretched emergency services too thin, and the crowds made it hard for paramedics to get to those calling for help.
"Our greatest fear is that someone is going to die or will be in serious medical distress and we will be unable to get EMS personnel in to assist due to the size of the crowds," said London police deputy chief Daryl Longworth.
The annual street party was traditionally held during Western University's official homecoming weekend — though it was never associated with the school's administration.
But in 2016, Western officials decided to postpone homecoming until late October, when the weather had cooled down and schoolwork had ramped up, in an attempt to dissuade people from attending the celebration.
The school said thousands of people were showing up to the parties — including busloads of people from other universities, high school students and members of London's criminal element.
In protest, students decided to throw a "fake homecoming" street party at the end of September anyway, and they continued the tradition this year.
Saturday's event saw thousands crowded onto a short street just off the university campus, Longworth said.
"It was just wall-to-wall people," he said. "If someone were to be in medical distress in the middle of that crowd, getting emergency services workers to them became quite an ordeal."
Thirty-seven people attending the party were taken to hospital, according to emergency medical services — including one who sustained a serious head and spinal injury after falling off a roof, and seven others who overdosed on drugs.
But because of the crowds, Longworth said, paramedics needed to be escorted by police officers through the party-goers to reach the people in need of medical help.
The majority of people taken to hospital for treatment were 18 or 19 years old, police said.
Police said two criminal charges were laid related to the party for drug offences, along with bylaw charges, a Controlled Drug and Substances Act charge and 50 provincial offence notices.
They say 964 provincial offence warnings were also issued — many related to liquor and trespassing.
Troy Henley, who lives in Peterborough, Ont., but whose girlfriend attends Western, said he showed up to the party in the late morning, and by that point it was already packed with people wearing Western's school colour: bright purple.
"It was a crazy time. I saw things from fights happening right outside of houses to stretchers from paramedics being carried down the street, from I guess students who got a little too drunk or whatever it may have been," he said.
Police were patrolling the streets, Henley said, checking to see if any of the partiers had open drinks.
"If they caught the right person that had an open drink — or alcoholic drink at least — they'd take it and pretty much dump it out right in front of them," he said.
But in spite of the police presence, and the university's condemnation of the event, Henley said this year's party was bigger and crazier than ever.
"I know the university kind of did everything they could to stop this type of event, or at least try to settle it down, but I don't think it worked at all."