Why Nuit Blanche violence deserves more scrutiny

Nuit Blanche — a city-wide, all-night arts exhibition — showed an ugly side on the weekend.

A fight at Yonge-Dundas Square put a man in the hospital with multiple stab wounds. Police tried to herd the crowd out of the square and the crowd pushed back.

A handful of officers were backed into a glass kiosk in the corner of the square, but not before bottles were thrown — one at the head of an officer. You can watch the video on YouTube. Search “Nuit Blanche Yonge Dundas.”

It was a show of police versus population aggression not seen in this city since the G20 protests.

The violence at this year’s Nuit Blanche has not drawn calls for the event to be eviction or banned, the way OVO Fest’s past violence has. Nor has Nuit Blanche’s violence resulted in the widespread concerns about raucous revellers, the way Caribana has. Hoteliers have not called for patrons to wear wristbands to crack down on Nuit Blanche partying. Granted, OVO and Caribana have both resulted in assaults and deaths in the past.
But this year is not the first time Nuit Blanche has turned violent. A stabbing near Queen Street and University Avenue during Nuit Blanche in 2013 left a 19-year-old dead.

And let’s not forget that the only thing that stopped this year’s Nuit Blanche from turning fatal was the lucky miss of a blade and the incrementally off-target trajectory of a thrown beer bottle.

The violence has been there at Nuit Blanche, and it was as real as the violence at the OVO after party, or Caribanas of years gone by. Toronto city councillor Jim Karygiannis said of the OVO after-party, “Clearly, the presence of the Toronto police officers and dozens of private security personnel … were not sufficient to protect the public from this violent criminal attack.” He may just as well have been speaking about Nuit Blanche.

But he wasn’t. It is our estimation that there is a stark difference in the way Nuit Blanche is treated compared to other Toronto events, when things get violent. There are two narratives at play in this city when violence befalls us. The first is one of fear and rage and cultural stereotyping. The second is one of shrugs and mild distaste.

In the wake of this weekend’s events, which brought violence so close to campus, The Ryersonian will keep an eye on the way Toronto, its councillors, its law enforcement and its event organizers handle large-scale security issues.

How many police are on duty at Nuit Blanche compared to OVO Fest? How many private security personnel are hired?

The police who tried to clear Yonge-Dundas Square in the early hours of Sunday morning were community response officers, the ones who ride their bikes around the city, sometimes in spandex shorts. Are those the same personnel assigned to Yonge and Dundas when Caribana is in town?The Ryersonian will strive in the coming days and weeks to answer these questions and more. Because you, students of Ryerson, citizens of Toronto, deserve to know.

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