Fight for Your Right to Party: An Exploratory Study of Queen’s Homecoming Weekend and the Phenomenon of Student Celebratory Riots
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While college and university students have long been associated with newfound independence, alcohol and unrest, the phenomenon of celebratory rioting, which combines these key elements of student culture, is relatively new. While incidents have occurred since 1985, their recent escalation in size, frequency, and property damages continues to raise public concern in many college and university towns across North America. Research indicates that celebratory riots result from large non-protest related assemblies of mostly students where alcohol is consumed freely, participants spontaneously engage in unruly behaviour, and police intervention invites resistant and aggressive responses from crowd members. However, such outbursts are often difficult to predict since they may emerge from a myriad of possible trigger events. In order to further interpret celebratory rioting, this thesis examines a number of individual-centred and event-centred crowd theories to determine what is known about crowd behaviour. This study concludes that the analysis of a celebratory riot event requires a process-rooted approach, such as the Value-Added model, to account for the situational factors which shape the event’s precursors, transactions and aftermath. This thesis focuses analytical attention on the annual Queen’s Homecoming Aberdeen street party in Kingston, Ontario which became riotous in 2005. This case study comprised an extensive media content analysis, Queen’s archival research, and direct observation at a number of student focus groups, committee meetings and student gatherings. This study, which concludes with an analysis of the non-riotous Homecoming celebrations of 2006, revealed that the riot of 2005 was hardly unique; instead, it followed decades of intermittent student disturbances in the Queen’s student neighbourhood. Furthermore, the 2005 Aberdeen Street riot ultimately parallels the story of so many celebratory riots which have recently occurred and continue to emerge in a number of college and university towns across North America.