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Mayor calls out 'hooliganism' at Kitchener park on Victoria Day

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Kitchener’s mayor has strong words for what happened in and around Victoria Park on Monday night, calling it reckless hooliganism, unsafe and violent behaviour, and a significant risk to public safety.

The scary scene unfolded on Victoria Day, with a large group of young people shooting fireworks at each other, as well as bystanders, animals, by-law officers and police.

“I was both very disappointed and very angry,” Mayor Berry Vrbanovic told CTV News on Wednesday. “There seemed to be a total disregard for the safety of others.”

Waterloo Regional Police said one teen was arrested and charged with assault and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

There were no serious injuries reported, but the mayor said there will be further discussions involving city bylaw, property standards and security staff internally, as well as meetings with community safety partners, and in particular, Waterloo Regional Police.

While the mayor said it’s still too early to propose solutions, working with the school boards will likely be a component, given the age of those involved.

“Making young people understand that… as a community, we need to look out for each other and make sure it’s a great community for everyone,” Vrbanovic explained.

Adding to the concerns is the fact a similar incident happened on Victoria Day 2023, and Canada Day is just six weeks away.

Councillor Debbie Chapman said it’s important to address the situation quickly, given how many people live in close proximity to Victoria Park.

She also received numerous messages from residents as the situation unfolded on Monday.

“People were scared, right, they didn’t know what might transpire… or what might become of the activity that was going on around them,” Chapman explained.

Her constituents told her they were concerned it could become a recurring event, like the St. Patrick’s Day street parties in Waterloo’s university district, and want it addressed quickly before that happens.

Chapman said it’s likely there will be more bylaw and police enforcement in Victoria Park this year for Canada Day celebrations.

“This is people’s homes and people need to be able to feel safe.”

Chapman expects a staff report on the Victoria Day incident will be available in a couple of weeks, and discussions can go from there.

People running down a Kitchener street and shooting fireworks on May 21, 2024. (Source: Harold Russell/Facebook)

One other Kitchener city councillor, however, said it might be time to look at an outright fireworks ban.

Councillor Paul Singh has advocated for restricting firework displays to city-coordinated designated sites when Kitchener was making changes to its fireworks bylaw last year, and is even more supportive of the decision after Monday’s events.

Singh hopes there will be compliance with the bylaw and respect on Canada Day and Diwali later this year, but said if the rules aren’t followed and people’s safety and property are at risk, a ban is the necessary next step.

The City of Woodstock recently decided to back a fireworks ban. They said there were too many people not following the rules around setting off fireworks.

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