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Students in 'deep shit' after spoiling own undies

Dunedin students in ‘deep shit’ after spoiling own Undies

By Scott Ridley, with reporting by Aimee Gulliver, Critic

While the official ‘Charity Drive’ component of this year’s Undie 500 went smoothly and resulted in a bonanza for Dunedin’s foodbanks, the ‘Use the Undie as an Excuse For a Riot’ component lived up to expectations and descended into drunken chaos. This year’s event saw 67 people charged with various offences, and has led to the Engineering Society of Canterbury (ENSOC) officially deciding not to endorse an event next year.

Students, ‘Scarfies’ & Scum break with tradition and riot (on a Friday)

Reports of bottle throwing and fires on Castle Street began around 9pm on Friday September 11, when most official participants were still in Oamaru or en-route to Dunedin. Later in the night, a large portion of the gathered crowd were identifying themselves as non-students, including a ‘Bogan 30’ who accompanied the procession to Dunedin.

As the clock struck midnight, things got ugly. The closure of Gardies Tavern resulted in an influx of people onto the street. An hour later, there were three considerable fires on the street, including one that spread to a power pole.

As police tried to clear the situation the crowd fought back. They chanted, threw bottles, and overturned a car as they were pushed past Selwyn College, which, according to Warden Dr. David Clark, was on lock-down at the time. Damage to the College was not extensive, limited to a fence pale, reflecting similar property damage on the rest of the street.

Students + Police + Pepper Spray = Spicy Saturday

On Saturday, things were set for a repeat as students began drinking during the sunny morning while linemen got in early to repair the previous night’s damage.

The efforts of police, the Dunedin City Council (DCC), community groups cleaning the streets, and rain did their best to dampen expectations of another booze-fuelled night. However, the midnight closing of Gardies once again was the cue for anti-social behaviour, albeit with fewer bottles and fires. Gardies declined to comment when contacted by Critic.

Emergency Response Commander Inspector Alistair Dickie said the crowds were not as confrontational as they were in 2007. He lead the police’s ‘softly, softly’ approach at first, with attempts to clear the street with a line of regular officers who managed to disperse many of the non-violent spectators. However, a group of about 600 remained, intent on causing trouble and requiring the intervention of police in riot gear.

Police were going through so much pepper spray that by the time they had pushed the mob down Castle Street and onto campus, backup canisters were brought in. “Spray was necessary in some cases to get compliance in some of these areas where the bottles were being thrown,” Dickie told Critic on the night.

By this stage, the crowds were beginning to disperse, leaving a small group of people to bait the police. As police yelled, “Keep moving or you will be arrested,” the crowd responded, “How far?”

By the time the streets were cleared, there had been in excess of 70 arrests over the weekend. According to St John’s Alena Lynch, the ambulance services had attended to 15 patients, including one with serious burns, while the remainder were suffering the effects of pepper spray and minor lacerations.

Student Caitlyn O’Fallon went down to Castle Street at one stage before the chaos erupted and saw policemen and firemen acting “pretty friendly, and chucking a rugby ball around with students.” Other students noticed police posing for photographs, even when the worst of the drunken debauchery was underway.

Castle Street resident Nicola Smallwood was around on Saturday night when the chaos began, and had people running into her flat off the street to escape police. In the early hours of Sunday morning she heard wailing from the front lawn, and discovered a male student rolling around clutching his face after being pepper-sprayed by police. Five more students took refuge in Smallwood’s hallway, and she was at one stage encouraged by police to leave her flat and go to town, despite not taking part in any of the activities.

Lights, Camera, Alcohol, Action!

The media have been on this story like a flame to a couch. The Otago Daily Times rushed out late editions of the Saturday paper to include front-page coverage of Friday night’s events.

Events on both nights led stories in the national media all weekend. Reporters doing live crosses for the evening news, and Mark Sainsbury, who hosted Close Up from Castle Street on Monday, were joined by hungover students attempting to say hi to their mums. Sainsbury told Critic that the weekend’s disorder “didn’t look flash.”

Despite the oft-repeated claim by city officials and the media that the news was a big story overseas, exchange students in Australia, Canada, Minnesota, Ireland, and Sweden had not noticed any reports where they are living.

Everyone takes their places in circular firing squad

The events on Friday and Saturday night were “extremely disappointing,” although “hardly surprising in view of the recent history of the Undie 500 rally,” Vice Chancellor Sir David Skegg said in a statement after the weekend. He claims this is why the DCC, the University, and the Dunedin Police asked ENSOC to “take their pub crawl somewhere else.”

OUSA President Edwin Darlow described the events of the weekend as a “society problem; there is something seriously wrong with the mentality of young people in this country.” ENSOC President Carl Shrimpton, while not wanting to lay blame on any one group, said there is “an underlying culture in Dunedin [of] burning couches and the like.”

Mayor Peter Chin claimed, “There haven’t been any problems [of student disorder] this year until now” (presumably having forgotten about the eventful Toga Parade at the beginning of the year).

Darlow has continued his accusations from before the event that the DCC blocked “all attempts to manage the situation,” having “buried their heads in the sand.”

Chin says he is “gutted by what has happened over the weekend. [I’m] gutted because of the harm it’s done to the reputation of the city, and the reputation of the University.” Skegg is confident, however, that “the reputation of a great institution built up over 140 years cannot be destroyed by a small number of students in a single weekend.”

Undie stain finally washed out?

ENSOC advised the University of Canterbury last Thursday that, in light of the weekend’s events, the Undie 500 will not be returning to Dunedin “in the foreseeable future.” Shrimpton says the society is very disappointed that the event has been brought into disrepute by the actions of a small minority. In future, there will be “an alternative event that won’t involve Dunedin.” The University of Canterbury has welcomed the decision, describing it as “inevitable” after the weekend’s events in Dunedin.

Mayor Peter Chin is “very, very grateful that ENSOC has come to this decision, but can only wish that it would have happened two weeks ago.”

In a statement on Monday night, Skegg said that “everything possible [must be done] to ensure that the Undie 500 is not repeated.” Critic was unable to contact the Vice-Chancellor after the cancellation was announced.

“ENSOC’s decision to cancel the Undie 500 places the onus well and truly back on the DCC, the University of Otago, and the students themselves to behave,” Darlow says.

“There are some students in deep shit”

Sixty-seven people face charges ranging from disorderly behaviour and breach of liquor ban to wilful destruction of property. Eighty percent hail from Otago, ten percent from Canterbury, and the other ten percent are not students. Two had appeared before the Court on Tuesday, and another 24 appeared in the District Court on Thursday, with the majority of cases adjourned until October 1. The remainder were expected to appear in Court last Friday morning. The police had announced before the weekend that diversion would not be available for people arrested in relation to the Undie 500.

Skegg says the small number of students who behaved in “a totally unacceptable way” will be dealt with under the University’s disciplinary powers, irrespective of whether they appear before the Courts. Skegg describes the majority of Otago students as “hard-working, delightful young people.”

“[Canterbury] University does not condone illegal behaviour and will not protect its students from the law,” Corporate Affairs Manager of Canterbury University John McDonald says. “Once cases have been through the Courts, students will be referred to the Proctor.”

Chin said some students would be in “deep shit” now that they are before the courts. Prime Minister John Key also weighed in, saying that some students are likely to graduate with criminal convictions, which will be a “waste of their futures.”

Starving poor people the real winners

The ‘Charity Drive’ aspect of the Undie 500 did stock up various foodbanks in Dunedin, including OUSA’s. As Critic has been reporting, the OUSA Foodbank had been struggling this year, but now has enough supplies to last the rest of the year.

This story was syndicated by the Aotearoa Student Press Association via Critic www.critic.co.nz. Become a fan of Critic – Te Arohi on Facebook to receive breaking news alerts straight to your News Feed.

ENDS

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