Police break up large group of students trying to party at UVic amid pandemic

The Martlet
Saanich Police officers dispersing a party at UVic amid the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic couldn’t stop students at the University of Victoria from partying or at least trying.

Images captured by UVic’s The Martlet, show Saanich Police Department officers dispersing a sea of students gathered outside of the McPherson Library looking to party at around 9:30 p.m. Friday.

Witnesses said people were drinking, smoking, and socializing, while many were not wearing masks and not practicing physical distancing.

“There were hundreds of people, I couldn’t tell you how many,” said Sophie St. Georges, a student living in the UVic dorms, who saw the gathering.

Another student, Lindsey Skelton, confirmed the high numbers saying, “All I’ve heard is there was like 300 people.”

Two hours later, another gathering was broken up at the nearby Frank Hobbs Elementary School.

Saanich Police told CHEK News they have reason to believe the people found at the second location were some of the same partiers kicked off the university campus just hours earlier.

Large group of more than 100 people at Frank Hobbs Elementary School broken up by Saanich Police

Saanich Police broke up a large gathering at Frank Hobbs Elementary School just two hours after dispersing a large party at UVic | Photo: The Martlet

Although this was the first UVic gathering this school year to be broken up by police, students say it’s not the first party with more than 50 people.

“I know there have been gatherings of 50-300 people every night since school started,” said Skelton.

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It’s not for lack of trying on the university’s part. According to students living in the dorms, they’ve set up strict COVID-19 rules for residents.

“We were only allowed to have one person at our dorm at a time,” said Skelton. “No gatherings of more than 50 people, you have to have masks on any time you see anyone, and social distancing in any scenario you’re in.”

Denise Helm, director media relations and public affairs for UVic, says the school has been very clear to students and the community about the need to follow COVID-19 guidelines set out by the provincial health officer.

“It is unclear whether these are all UVic students or whether they live in residence or not,” said Helm. “Unfortunately, some students are disregarding the advice of the public health officer who has pointed out that people who haven’t been socializing safely in B.C. have spread the virus to friends, families and strangers.”

The recent gathering also has UVic Resident Services frustrated with the lack of compliance.

“We have informed those living in residence about the health guidelines in multiple and ongoing ways,” said Kathryn MacLeod, director of residence services. “We are disappointed that some students are gathering in inappropriate numbers.”

And some students, even though you can face big fines, say the parties aren’t going anywhere.

“I think its just kind of natural that we want to get close,” said Link Bechtold, who does not attend the parties. “I think there are parties, I tend to hear noise every night.”

While the province has given police the green light to hand out $200 tickets to anyone not complying with public health orders, Saanich PD did not give out any tickets to anyone at the gatherings.

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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