Toronto protest calls for Mayor Rob Ford's resignation

Photos by Ira Lamcja

Hundreds of people gathered at Toronto’s Nathan Philip Square Saturday afternoon for a Facebook-organized a rally that called for the resignation of the city’s controversial mayor, Rob Ford.

The event, called Stand Up Toronto, was started by Chris Wright, who has been declining media requests for interviews.

“It's not my event, it's Toronto's,” he wrote on the Facebook wall. “I just happen to be the guy that created the [F]acebook event.”

Protesters began leaving chalk messages on the Square’s concrete walls asking Ford to resign from his position in response to recent allegations that Mayor Ford is involved with crack cocaine.

The news and gossip website Gawker published a controversial report on May 16 alleging that Mayor Ford was filmed in a video smoking crack cocaine from a pipe. Gawker’s editor John Cook wrote that “[the] man in the video is Rob Ford. It is well-lit, clear. Ford is seated, in a room in a house.”

Photo of anti-Rob Ford protesters by Ira Lamcja

Hours after Gawker’s report, Toronto Star reporters Robyn Doolittle and Kevin Donovan published an investigative report with a more detailed account of what transpired in the alleged video.

In addition to the three reporters’ accounts of the video, Gawker and the Toronto Star published a photo associated with the story which shows Mayor Ford with his arm around Anthony Smith, a known drug dealer who was recently shot dead.

Despite calls to address the allegations, Mayor Ford remained silent on the issue for more than a week, until he spoke with a statement on May 24, saying that he does “not use crack cocaine”.

The next day, the Globe and Mail published a story regarding the Ford family’s connection with Toronto’s illicit drug industry, alleging that the mayor’s brother, who is also a Toronto City Councillor, Doug Ford was a dealer of hashish in the 1980s. The story also makes reference to the mayor’s other siblings’ connections with the illicit drug industry.

Coun. Ford has vehemently denied the allegations to several media organizations, and attacked the media for their heavy reporting on the Ford family, and the Globe’s report “gotcha journalism”.

Both the mayor and his brother hosted their weekly Sunday radio show on May 26, denying the allegations of involvement in the illegal drug industry.

A caller asked Mayor Ford if it was him in the alleged video, to which the mayor responded: “Number one: There’s no video, so that’s all I can say. You can’t comment on something that doesn’t exist.”

The same caller also asked about the published photograph, asking if it was indeed the mayor with his arm around Anthony Smith, and Mayor Ford responded: “I take pictures with everyone.”

In the midst of all this, the Mayor’s office has undergone significant pressure since firing chief of staff Mark Towhey on May 23, including resignations from two senior communications aides, a policy advisor, and a council relations official.

Protesters gathered at Nathan Philips Square are familiar with the ongoing Ford family saga. Some called for Mayor Ford to resign, while others demanded the truth. Two protesters braved the crowd, with signs of support for the mayor.

“Support due process. Innocent until proven guilty,” read one supporter’s sign. Another supporter had brought a large cardboard; positive news articles about the mayor were glued on.

Protester Brian Young, however, had brought a different sign. His was large, with a picture of the mayor on it, and the word “Nope” written on the bottom. He said he’s been carrying the sign around to rallies for two years, ever since Ford was elected mayor.

Young said that the crack scandal is not important to him. He compared the scandal surrounding Toronto’s City Hall to the scandals of US Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon. “It’s not what they do,” Young said, “it’s how they react to it in public.”

“Nixon was impeached. He had to leave because he lied. This guy – not only does he lie, he ignores the press,” Young said.

Young added that Ford is not a mayor who represents the large and diverse group of people in Toronto, but rather “a very small part” of the group.

While protests ensued at Nathan Philips Square, Mayor Ford was at the Baskin-Robbins fundraiser for Sick Kids, according to a tweet from his official twitter account.

“Great meeting so many nice folks,” the tweet said.

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