Nuit Blanche plagued by violence, partying

Lava Field No.2. by Robert Wysocki. (Photo: Mahnoor Yawar) Lava Field No.2. by Robert Wysocki. (Photo: Mahnoor Yawar)

Serge Halytsky
Senior Reporter

Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, the annual all night visual arts festival started in 2006, has had a violence problem for the last few years.

Most Torontonians go there to tour the widely dispersed downtown art exhibits before 10 p.m., because “little good happens afterward,” City News warns.

In recent years, extremely rowdy street partying, drunkenness and violence have become part of the event, which is held in a number of international cities, including Montreal and Ottawa, with apparently less problems than Toronto, which draws about one million participants, including some 200,000 people from out of town.

Multiple arrests at last weekend’s event, which included bottle throwing at police during a mob surge in Yonge-Dundas Square, followed incidents in several previous years. In 2013, Ramees Khalid, 19, was stabbed to death right by Nuit Blanche exhibits on University Avenue. A second man was also stabbed that year.

A man was stabbed the previous year and another man was shot twice at Trinity-Bellwoods Park during the 2011 incarnation.

The Toronto Eaton Centre refused to host any Nuit Blanche events the same year because of damage caused by the vandalism of event goers.

The Torontoist posted the Nuit Blanche 2015 survival guide, advising festival goers to avoid the late evening and the night before the 4 a.m. conclusion if one is looking for art exhibits and not a potentially belligerent crowd.

“Sometimes your friend won’t be able to make their way through the drunken masses to find you,” the guide states.

In some respects, things got worse this year, even considering the fact that no one got stabbed.

The scene of the crowd clash with outnumbered police officers last Saturday at Yonge-Dundas Square was disturbing to many Torontonians in the wake of the weekend.

Torontoist’s survival guide had stated, “Yonge-Dundas Square is the Hellmouth of Nuit Blanche. You will find nothing there but a wasteland of vomiting teenagers, overflowing garbage, and your own existential crisis.”

Artists have to be considered among the losers in the deterioration of the festival, including a number of Humber College visual arts faculty and students that have participated over the years.

“It is not the Nuit Blanche to blame,” says Marcin Kedzior, Humber Interior design professor, who took part in a festival art exhibit this year and last.

Kedzior thinks Nuit Blanche creates that kind of atmosphere where rules are easily broken. And the huge crowds that come there are really hard to control.

“I think inbetween 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. it’s very difficult to be out,” he said. “At that time, it becomes too intense and (people are) not actually in that state of mind to contemplate the work of art.”

Nuit Blanche had its decade of success, Kedzior feels, and it might be time to finish now, with the city instead spending the money on a year-long art event.

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