Several hundred people showed up Saturday in Nathan Phillip’s Square for a rally organized on Facebook to demand the resignation of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
It was a significantly smaller turnout than anticipated. The event, called “Stand Up For Toronto – Let’s Demand Rob Ford’s Resignation,” had almost 4,000 confirmed attendees on Facebook by mid-morning Saturday. There was also a counterprotest by Ford supporters.
The rally to call for his resignation was peaceful, as organizer Chris Wright wrote on Facebook he hoped it would be.
“It’s not about personal attacks, it’s an opportunity for concerned citizens to get together and rally for a common goal – strong leadership for our amazing city,” he wrote on the group’s Facebook wall.
Mr. Wright denied media requests for further comment, saying, “It’s not my event, it’s Toronto’s.”
Chanting “Rob Ford must go,” the energetic crowd in front of City Hall spoke, cheered and then took to the pavement to write their own messages in chalk.
Many people vocalized their discontent with the recent allegations against the mayor and the attention those have taken away from other issues at City Hall.
The controversy erupted several weeks ago with reports of a video allegedly showing the mayor using crack cocaine.
The fallout has led to calls for his resignation and expressions of concern from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Mr. Ford maintains the video does not exist. He has said he does not use crack cocaine, is not an addict and that the allegation is ridiculous.
Ryan North, a 32-year-old cartoonist, said he was at the Saturday event because he wants to see a change.
“I’m tired of the constant sideshow that Rob Ford has become,” he said.
“It’s frustrating that this is what the world thinks of Toronto now; everything else is overshadowed by crack cocaine allegations,” he said.
“It stretches credulity how ridiculous this city has become in the eyes of the world. There’s more to Toronto than Rob Ford.”
There were a few supporters of the mayor at the event. One held up a sign covered in positive articles about the mayor. He said the mayor has helped him before, and he thinks he’s doing a good job.
“My problem is my money, my son’s money, my friend’s money,” he said.
“The rest is not important. Leave it to the police.”
On the other side, Don Quinlan, a retired high school teacher who says he attends every council meeting, said he attended the event because “enough is enough.”
“I believe the mayor has been a total disaster for the city. I think it’s time for him to step back. He’s an embarrassment to the city.”
Mr. Ford has seen six of his mayoral office staff depart since he was accused of using crack cocaine but is vowing to remain mayor and guaranteeing that his name will be on next year’s election ballot.
“I’m not stepping aside, I’m running in the next election,” he told a news conference Thursday. “If the great people of this city want to go in a different direction, then that’s what their prerogative is, but I guarantee my name will be on the ballot.”