OurWilliamsburg attends city council meeting in response to increased policing


Monday, April 8, students of the College of William and Mary gathered at the Stryker Center for the Williamsburg City Council meeting to discuss the recent increased police presence around campus, especially on weekends. 

Many of the attendees were members of OurWilliamsburg, a student advocacy program established last year in response to the student housing crisis. Currently, the group is working on reducing stricter policing, including increased patrols, breathalyzing students and closing down events before the 11 p.m. ordinance

Coordinating the effort for student attendance during the city council meeting was the head of OurWilliamsburg and Sigma Pi Fraternity President Will Katabian ’25. He hopes to create greater collaboration between students at the College and the Williamsburg Police Department, with the goal of making students feel safe on campus. 

“I think the intimidation tactics that they’re employing are scary,” Katabian said. “And our goal for Monday is to show the city that we aren’t going to get pushed around. I’m not trying to have a riot. I think the city needs to understand that we exist and there’s a lot of us.”

Katabian first became involved in the organization his sophomore year along with fellow Sigma Pi member Matthew Boothby ’25 to fight for increased student housing rights. 

Since his involvement and expansion of the organization, Boothby has seen some improvements in the student relationships with city council members. 

“City councilors are, at least, more open to listening to us, especially with having our organization in a brand,” Boothby said. “They’re much more willing to meet with us. It’s much easier to work with them when you have some sort of unified message.” 

Since the fall semester’s last day of classes in December 2023, students have noticed an uptick in police presence in response to a large student party held in the yard of a student’s house on Lafayette Street.

“We had three of four students who were on the train tracks,” Chief of Police Sean Dunn said during the meeting. “There was a very large party on Lafayette, I mean it was just elbow to elbow in the backyard of this particular property and folks basically went all the way back just about to the train tracks, and then some of the folks that were there actually spilled onto the train tracks.”

As a result, Williamsburg Police stopped train service in the city for roughly twenty minutes and three students were charged.

Dunn also commented on a last day of classes at the end of the spring 2023 semester where fifteen students were hospitalized at Riverside Doctors’ Hospital due to severe levels of alcohol intoxication.

“We don’t have hospital space for 15 folks at our emergency department on top of any other emergencies we might have in our community,” Sean said. “And so unfortunately folks that were sick, rather than responding to that emergency department had to be diverted and had to go to emergency departments that maybe would’ve been a closer department but now they’re further departments. And unfortunately, it’s a disservice to the entire community, it’s a tremendous strain on our police personnel, on our fire EMS personnel, and on our hospital staff and capacity.”

Dunn emphasized that many members of the community have complained that events surrounding the last of classes are getting out of hand, and that it is the police’s duty to prevent pedestrians from getting hit by cars and alcohol-related deaths. He hopes the police department and students will work together, or else they will have to resort to enforcement.

While the Lafayette Street party was shut down fairly quickly, students are still feeling the repercussions following that celebration. A tenant of the house where the party was held, Nate Lathrop ’25, has noticed changes in the behaviors of the police department. 

“I feel like there has been an uptick in police presence since that event, just because they know a house that will have events,” said Lathrop.

Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority President Mary O’Leary ’25 spoke to the council during the open forum, asking how students can continue to participate in social gatherings without getting into trouble. She further noted that this increased police presence created a divide and distrust between students and the police department. 

“While students will still be partaking in social gatherings with alcohol, they’re going to be pushed into an underground scene that will limit the ability for students to work with the police in a constructive and safe way,” O’Leary said to the city council. “Rather, I believe that teaching people how to participate in safe drinking and the resources that are available to them provide a safer social environment.” 

Lathrop echoed O’Leary’s sentiment. He noted that he feels much safer under the jurisdiction of the William and Mary Police Department, as opposed to the WPD.

“Last spring I was walking home and one of the William and Mary police actually asked me if I wanted a ride because it was late, and I was fine as I was right next door. But she was genuinely nice and she was genuinely looking out for a student on campus. But if that happened off campus, I’ve heard of situations where students have been getting trailed at night at like two or three miles an hour, and then if they stumble or something, the cops just instantly flash them, make them take a breathalyzer,” Lathrop said. 

Lathrop and O’Leary are not alone in their skepticism of the WPD. In an anonymous tip submitted to OurWilliamsburg, one student with a disability noted their fear of being stopped by the police and urged the police to be aware of the judgment they use when deciding to stop students. 

“I felt great fear,” the statement read. “My disability can cause me to walk like I am intoxicated, to pass out, to need to sit or lay down and even sometimes to throw up. I am very scared about them making serious judgements based on the criteria of ‘appearing intoxicated’ or ‘looking suspicious’ and being stopped and interrogated based on their perception that I may be intoxicated.”

After students expressed their concerns to city officials, Katabian is hopeful that the presence of OurWilliamsburg at the meeting will lead to a decreased presence of police officers on the streets and at the events of the College’s students. 

“I spoke with the chief along with a few of you and once we were able to move past the topic of Blowout he seemed appalled by the behavior of his officers,” Katabian wrote in an OurWilliamsburg GroupMe message in reference to WPD Chief of Police Sean Dunn after the conclusion of the meeting. “He has agreed to address the department about the targeting and disrespect, hoping to see improvements this weekend.”


  1. […] “I felt great fear,” the statement read. “My disability can cause me to walk like I am intoxicated, to pass out, to need to sit or lay down and even sometimes to throw up. I am very scared about them making serious judgements based on the criteria of ‘appearing intoxicated’ or ‘looking suspicious’ and being stopped and interrogated based on their perception that I may be intoxicated.” Read more… […]


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