‘Stand up for Toronto’ demonstration draws hundreds upset by video allegedly showing city’s controversial mayor smoking crack
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Toronto on Saturday to call for the resignation of embattled city mayor Rob Ford over a scandal involving a video of him allegedly smoking crack.
The event, called Stand up for Toronto – Let’s Demand Rob Ford’s Resignation, comes on the back of a week of resignations among Ford’s close aides and continued denials of drug use by the controversial politician.
Ford has faced increased pressure to step down after the Toronto Star and gossip website Gawker produced stories giving details of how their staff had watched a clip that featured Ford apparently smoking from a crack pipe.
No video has surfaced to back up the claims, but the published accounts contained detailed descriptions of the clip, which was apparently being offered for sale by Toronto drug dealers. Gawker even ran a successful internet campaign to raise $200,000 in cash to buy the video – though the drug dealers have now reportedly disappeared without striking a deal.
At the protest some demonstrators stopped to write messages in chalk on a wall in downtown Toronto. They represented a mix of humour and seriousness – largely reflecting the public reaction to the strange scandal. “This is your city on crack,” said one, in reference to a widely remembered anti-drug advert of the 1980s. While another message read simply: “Rob Ford for resignation.”
Ford himself has vociferously denied the allegations. At a press conference just over a week ago, he described the claim as nonsense. “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine,” he said. But he declined then to answer reporters’ questions over whether he had used drugs in the past.
At a press conference on Thursday, the mayor responded “anything else” to questions about the scandal.
Ford also repeatedly declined to comment on the video, saying it does not exist. Last Sunday he spoke about the matter on a radio show he hosts with his brother, Doug Ford, who is a city council member. He blasted media chasing the story as “a bunch of maggots” and dismissed the video. “Number one: there’s no video, so that’s all I can say. You can’t comment on something that doesn’t exist,” he told a listener who asked about the issue.
But Ford’s firm stance has not prevented an exodus of senior members of his staff. On Thursday Brian Johnston, Ford’s policy and council relations adviser, and Kia Nejatian, Ford’s executive assistant, both resigned
They joined chief-of-staff Mark Towhey – whom Ford fired after reportedly suggesting to the mayor that he go to rehab – and two press spokesmen, George Christopoulos and Isaac Ransom, who both resigned at the start of the week.
The swirl of rumour and scandal surrounding Ford is getting murkier almost by the day. Both Gawker and the Toronto Star have also published a photo provided by one of the men hawking the video which shows Ford with his arms around two men.
One of them is believed to be Anthony Smith, a 21-year-old college student who was recently killed in a shooting outside a Toronto nightclub.
The Star and the Globe and Mail have reported that the police are now investigating links between the video and a recent homicide in Toronto. The Star also reported this week that the third man in the photograph was injured in the same shooting, two months ago.
Nor is this Ford’s first time at the centre of a PR disaster. The Toronto Star reported earlier this year that he was asked to leave a gala fundraiser for wounded Canadian soldiers because he appeared to be drunk.
During his election campaign, he denied a 1999 arrest for marijuana possession in Florida but later acknowledged it was true. He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and failing to give a breath sample to police.
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