After a series of videos showing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford at the Taste of the Danforth on Friday night were posted on social media, several people took to Twitter to debate what they were watching.
Some of the videos and photos were taken by 20-year-old Mala Turay, a finance student at George Brown College, who lives on Greenwood Avenue. Mr. Turay said he spent almost an hour with Mr. Ford after first spotting the mayor talking to his neighbours outside a black SUV on Greenwood Avenue around 9:30 p.m.
Mr. Turay said he seemed to sway, and added that Mr. Ford did not have any police officers or staff around him at the time.
As more people began to crowd around the mayor, Mr. Ford said wanted to go to the Danforth and “party,” as heard in the videos. Moving slowly, the crowd followed Mr. Ford north on Greenwood Avenue and then west on Danforth Avenue, stopping several times along the way for the mayor to pose for pictures with the area residents.
Police and city staff joined the mayor about 30 minutes later. When they reached a convenience store at Donlands Avenue and Danforth Avenue, one of the mayor’s staff drove up in the black SUV the mayor had been standing outside earlier, according to Mr. Turay. Mr. Turay said the SUV stopped in front of the mayor, but the mayor did not get inside. Instead, he continued walking west, and the SUV followed.
Stephannie Roy, another neighbourhood resident, said she also saw the mayor outside the convenience store.
During the hour that Mr. Turay spent with Mr. Ford, he said the mayor talked about sports, asking people if they played hockey, soccer, football or basketball.
In one 57-second YouTube video from the popular street food festival, Mr. Ford is seen holding a Tim Hortons coffee cup surrounded by a group of people laughing and talking to him. He can be heard saying: “We’re gonna go up to the party, man. I wanna get these kids playing football.” At one point, Mr. Ford tells the giggling crowd surrounding him with cameras, “I wanna go up to the Danforth. Let’s go party.”
Another video that had garnered more than 15,000 views by Saturday morning begins with Mr. Ford insisting “I’m not driving, I’m not driving, I’m not driving.”
After stopping for a picture, he takes off his blazer and walks down the street as a small group of people follow him laughing.
Demitra Motakis, 14, said she lives in the neighbourhood and was hanging out with friends at the festival when she saw about 10 police officers standing across the street outside a dry cleaning shop. When she caught a glimpse of the mayor’s face behind the police officers, she went over to have her picture taken with him.
She said that police were around Mr. Ford, only letting in people who had a camera and wanted a picture. There were about 25 people clamouring for a photo with the mayor, said Ms. Motakis.
Deputy mayor Doug Holyday, who recently won provincial by-election in his Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding, said that it is not unusual for the mayor to be by himself. Mr. Ford helped Mr. Holyday's campaign by going door-to-door with him.
"He's not always accompanied by somebody. I don't know why it would have happened last night. Certainly, when I was campaigning, knocking on doors, he didn't have his staff with him," said Mr. Holyday.
The mayor’s office has not yet responded for comments regarding his appearance at the Danforth festival. When reached on the phone Saturday afternoon, his chief of staff, Earl Provost, said he had no comment.
Mr. Ford has been reported to have issues with alcohol in the past. In March, his chief of staff denied allegations that Mr. Ford was asked to leave a charity dinner attended by cabinet ministers and other politicians for appearing intoxicated.
In 1999, Mr. Ford was convicted of driving under the influence in Florida. He was barred from driving in Florida for a year, paid a $664.75 fine and ordered to complete 50 hours of community service.
With a report from Kelly Grant