St. Patrick’s Day 2023: Students not deterred by police presence


Warnings from UW administration as well as local police didn’t stop students from carrying on the tradition of throwing a block party on St. Patrick’s Day.

Police closed Ezra Street Thursday night, with students receiving an advisory email the same day from Chris Read, associate provost. In the email, Read asked students to “listen to the guidance of regional officials, including first responders, and avoid large gatherings and unsanctioned street parties.”

Spitting rain in the early afternoon prevented a large party from forming, with students choosing to attend house parties or host smaller gatherings of their own. Police lined Marshall Street with cops stationed every few houses, a definite increase in police presence compared to last year. 

Except for the years where COVID-19 restrictions prevented partiers from gathering, the City of Waterloo as well as UW and WLU have had precautions in place each year to prevent overly large crowds from forming. In 2019, a St. Patrick’s Day’s block party on Ezra Street attracted over 30,000 people. 

The Irish KW community has expressed frustration with the lack of focus on Irish culture during typical St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Posters made by the Region of Waterloo Irish Society with the phrase “This is not us” were visible on poles around WLU.

At 1:30 p.m., the crowd began to congregate around the intersection of Marshall and King, eventually moving to Marshall and Regina.

As with last year, the crowd consisted of students from various schools, including Wilfrid Laurier University, Conestoga College, the University of Guelph, and Western University.

Aleah Zein, a third-year environmental sciences student from the University of Guelph, described the scene as busier than last year, in terms of both the crowd and police presence. There was some frustration at police interference, but others expressed satisfaction due to the police presence. 

“I don’t think they’re breaking up parties, I think they’re just making sure people are safe,” Zein said.

Jamie Petri, a second-year geography student from the University of Guelph, also noted the increased police presence, and was similarly satisfied with the police’s actions. “I think they understand what’s happening … they were worse last year.”

The main block party began to disperse at around 3:45 p.m.

Students generally agreed that the police did not get unnecessarily involved. One particular incident saw a man detained on the ground by police due to carrying various blades on his person. William Raitt, a first-year BBA student, described an incident he witnessed where the police did get involved and detained a man on the ground. “The guy was trying to run away but they got him and now they’re pulling out multiple weapons,” Raitt said. “The cops have it under control, like this is just another example, but they’re doing a good job.”

Some students felt that the party was the same no matter where it took place. Matthew Bilopavlovic, a fourth-year general science student from UW, last attended St. Patrick’s Day in 2019. “Same thing, different street,” he said.

Imprint reached out to WRPS for comment. They did not respond to the request in time for publication.