Michael Talbot Dec 24, 2014 01:18:40 PM
The power and perils of social media were on full display when thousands of riled up teens descended on a Brampton home last May causing $70,000 in damages and sparking a prodigious police response that saw over 60 units at the scene.
And it all started with a single Twitter hashtag, #mansionparty.
Peel police caught wind of the hashtag spreading on Twitter on Friday, May 4, and said they visited the homeowner to issue a warning before the party even began.
But no warning could stop the social media momentum and despite the teen having permission from his mother to host the party, he was ill-prepared for the onslaught of bodies that packed the spacious residence like sardines.
Instead of the few hundred people expected at the home, which was under renovation on Stanley Carberry Drive near Goreway Drive and Mayfield Road, upwards of 2,000 people crammed in.
A teen who helped plan the bash, Alistair Colville, told CityNews that party-goers soon became claustrophobic and sought desperately to escape.
“It got more and more out of control,” the teen admitted. “Everyone was trying to get out of the house as fast as they could.”
“People weren’t blatantly trying to destroy the house, but…(I’ve heard) that people were smashing windows to get out.”
Canice Ejoh, the 17-year-old who threw the party, ended up calling the cops when he realized the situation was out of his control.
The police response was equally epic.
“We’ve pulled units from virtually every unit in the region to up and assist with this,” said Const. Lily Fitzpatrick at the time.
CityNews assignment editor Clinton Hossanah began hearing frantic activity on police scanners that night. Tips also started coming into the newsroom.
“I called police and they were extremely animated when they said pretty much their whole force was there, that they’ve never had that many cars in for a call for anything,” Hossanah recalled. “That’s what made me think this isn’t a regular party gone out of control.”
Hossanah, whose shift was about to end, jumped into a CityNews truck with a cameraman and headed to the scene.
“When we got close to the scene you started seeing groups of kids coming out of nowhere, out of the bushes even. They all looked drunk and bewildered and curious to see the media there as well.”
“We got out and started talking to police and they said they’ve never seen anything like this.”
“The person that threw the party didn’t want to go on camera, but he just couldn’t believe how putting something out on Twitter could draw this kind of reaction from people,” he added. “I don’t know if the people of Brampton were party-starved, but they came out in droves.”
The story became a cautionary tale, not just about how things can quickly spiral out of control because of social media, but about the potential for huge lawsuits.
TRM Law injury lawyer Thomas McKinlay said the homeowners could have been hit with a “multi-million dollar” lawsuit if someone was seriously injured.
The fact that the home was under renovation was even more problematic.
“When you invite anyone into your home, you are always taking a risk,” he said. “But if your house is under construction you are increasing the risk.”
“Everything about (the party) just screams negligence.”
“(The homeowner) is basically responsible for any foreseeable injuries that occur at your premises, whether you have two people or 2,000.”
Luckily, no one was seriously injured at the party and there were no legal ramifications.
But Brampton teens and Peel police, wouldn’t soon forget how a Twitter hashtag resulted in a wild and rowdy party that would become part of local folklore.