Police presence doesn’t deter students from unsanctioned Western ‘homecoming’

Thousands pack the street along Broughdale Ave., just past Audrey Ave. to celebrate fake homecoming. 980 CFPL

They’re purple and they’re proud. Thousands of students packed Broughdale Avenue on Saturday in what’s being dubbed “The Real Western Homecoming.”

“We’re just hanging out with friends, you know, obviously just looking for a good time. Hopefully, we meet some new people and just celebrate the fake homecoming,” said Nolan James, a first-year economics student at Western University.

“I came here to celebrate the fact that we love Western. I think our school is the best school in the world, and we’re here to celebrate that,” said Jon Levac, a third-year kinesiology student.

When students learned the university had moved homecoming from its usual end-of-September date to mid-October for the second year in a row, they took action.

READ MORE: Thousands set to attend unsanctioned homecoming despite pleas from police, Western officials

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The Facebook page for “The Real Western Homecoming” explains the event was created to invite students to celebrate Western’s homecoming on the day it has traditionally been held.

Asked why they think Western decided to change the date, many agreed it was to keep festivities from getting out of hand.

“I think it’s more to just kind of tame everyone down a little bit because there were a lot of problems, I guess, with fights or whatever, so they’re just trying to calm the situation down,” said Yvonne, a fourth-year health science student.

But why not just celebrate on the date the university has chosen? According to the students, midterms get in the way.

“After [the date the university chose] we have midterms, so we can’t really afford to have fun then because we have to study. So we’re trying to do it now before we can’t,” Yvonne said.

READ MORE: London police promise visible presence at unsanctioned Western homecoming party

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While the university has said the date was changed to coincide with the Alumni events, students aren’t so sure.

A statement on the event’s Facebook page reads, “Western administration has once again, decided to move our annual ‘Hoco’ celebration to October 21st. With the hope, the colder weather, and busier academic schedule will dissuade students of displaying our school spirit.”

Also known as fake homecoming, or ‘FOCO’, the event has been condemned by Western University officials. In a statement released Wednesday, the university said the event “is in no way affiliated with Western or Western’s Homecoming. Western strongly advises that students do not attend this event on Broughdale.”

London police also released a statement, saying they fully intend to maintain public safety.

As of noon Saturday, all was, more or less, well.

“So far so good. We have up until Audrey covered, where the roadway has remained clear. We’re trying to encourage everybody to stay off of the roadway to make sure we are able to get emergency vehicles through if they’re needed,” said Const. Sandasha Bough.

Bough says their biggest priority is keeping the roadways clear so emergency vehicles can get through, but according to a tweet from London Police Service, it has not been easy. “EMS hampered in efforts to get to people at #FOCO in medical distress.”

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Final numbers will be available Monday or Tuesday, but Bough says they’ve been handing out warnings and tickets.

“We’ve already issued a number of warnings, and quite a few tickets. However, we can say it’s been strict, but fair enforcement,” said Bough.

Asked how the students have responded to the police presence, Bough says, they’ve had a mixed reception.

“Every situation is different, and so every residence we attend is different. There are quite a few people that are being quite co-operative with us, however, there are a few that have received some strict enforcement with regards to some of the things going on. We’ve seen a lot of open alcohol,” she said

When it’s all said and done, Yvonne believes those who are going to be irresponsible will do it whether or not the cops are there.

“Everyone kind of knows the rules, like you can’t drink on the streets, you have to be safe. I think the people that would’ve been safe otherwise are still being safe. If someone’s going to be reckless, they’re going to be reckless regardless. You kind of know what you can and can’t do,” she said.

The Western Mustangs took on the Laurier Goldenhawks in FOCO football action.

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Western University’s official homecoming takes place on Oct. 21, when the Mustangs take on the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees.

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