The captain of the Western cheerleading team was handed a $140 ticket from the London police after the team spontaneously performed a cheer on Broughdale Avenue on their way to the Homecoming game on Saturday.
According to Western cheerleading coach David Tracey, the team met for breakfast downtown and walked through Victoria Park and up Richmond Street before deciding to cut through Broughdale Avenue to get to the football stadium.
At approximately 11:15 a.m., the team decided to do a short, spontaneous performance, throwing a team member in the air to cheers from the throng of students on Broughdale.
At that point, they were approached by a London Police Service officer, who asked who was in charge. Max Gow, the team’s captain, stepped forward and was handed a ticket.
The specific infraction listed on the ticket was, “Causing a nuisance in the street by conducting a cheerleading performance.”
“It’s the 100th anniversary of Western Athletics […] and that’s how we start off our day, with our cheerleading team being shut down because we chose to express our spirit?” Tracey said.
He was upset at the lack of warning from the officer, and was adamant that if the team had simply been asked to move along they would have done so in a heartbeat.
Tracy described cheer as an innocent expression of joy and pride, and expressed disappointment with a system that ticketed his team for this.
“We should be allowed to be proud. We should be allowed to open our mouths and say we go to Western and we love this place,” he said.
The university neither supported nor denounced the LPS’ decision to ticket the cheerleaders.
“Western’s championship cheerleading team is known the world over for delivering incredible performances. The university believes strongly that an impromptu performance by some of the cheerleaders en route to campus was well-intentioned,” Western said in a statement.
Deputy police chief Brent Shea, in a press conference Monday, defended the decision to issue the ticket, and said the fine would not be rescinded.
“It is interesting that, in the media, there is no mention of the success of Western’s Homecoming and that is unfortunate,” Shea said.
The LPS issued 340 tickets on Saturday, 270 of which were given to Western students.
Of the 270 tickets issued to Western students, 214 of them were for liquor violations.
Shea stressed the bigger issue on Homecoming Saturday was the enormous crowd on Broughdale, which blocked the street and prevented emergency services from accessing the West end of the cul-de-sac.
He didn’t believe that the police overreacted given the circumstances because the cheerleading performance could have drawn even more of a crowd into the street, he said.
“From a police perspective, despite a significant challenge that emerged on Broughdale Avenue West of Richmond Street, with crowds that far exceeded numbers in previous years, homecoming 2013 was a success,” Shea said.
He estimated that 2,000–3,000 students were a part of the Broughdale crowd.
Shea stated problems with the crowd included its density — it blocked access by emergency vehicles, especially when an ambulance was needed for a student that collapsed on the West end.
In addition, Shea stated, many students were close to inebriation carrying open liquor down the street, and several were on rooftops.
“These precursors are not much different from those witnessed on St. Patrick’s day in 2012, with the exception that the crowd on Broughdale was much larger,” he said. “The potential for escalation was considerable.”