Toronto city staff will review how the Raptors’ rally unfolded and ways to improve, Mayor John Tory said on Tuesday, after the celebration of the city’s first National Basketball Association championship was met with record crowds, some violent outbursts and panic.
Representatives from the police, Toronto Transit Commission, Metrolinx, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and other partners will be at the table for the coming review to be led by city manager Chris Murray.
About one million people were at the parade, according to the city’s conservative estimates on crowd size, with about 100,000 people packed into Nathan Phillips Square and the surrounding area alone, Toronto’s chief communications officer Brad Ross said.
There were incidents throughout the day, including a stabbing near the Eaton Centre and three subway station closures, culminating when gunfire erupted in the square just before 4 p.m. Four people sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the shooting.
Police subsequently arrested three people from Toronto for firearms offences and recovered two firearms. Shaquille Anthony Miller, 25, Abdikarim Kerow, 18, and Thaino Toussaint, 20, have been charged.
Police allege Mr. Miller and Mr. Touissaint were in possession of handguns at the time of their arrest.
Investigators are searching for another person who left the scene of the shooting. Police Chief Mark Saunders described the suspect as a male with a heavy build with short brown hair, a white shirt, standing at about 5-foot-9. Investigators are also searching for a third gun believed to be involved in the incident.
In a statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday morning, Mr. Tory called the scene “a scary moment that police acted immediately to deal with. I know that concern and anger still prevails this morning arising out of the reckless actions of those who brought firearms to this celebration.”
The city and its partners had about three days to plan the parade following the Raptors’ historic victory last Thursday.
“This was a parade unlike any other,” Mr. Ross said, adding that the organizing team sought advice from the NBA about previous parades in other cities when planning Toronto’s event.
He said police and city staff were consulted in the decision to place barricades along the east side of University Avenue, but not on the west side. Still, he noted that fans jumped in front of the barricades. “Yes, it slowed the parade, but people remained safe and people were allowed to celebrate,” he said.
Dump trucks were also positioned to act as blockades on certain street entrances, though emergency routes were always in place.
Still, for some people in the square, there seemed to be no path out or visible presence of authorities, including security or police.
Freddie Rivas, who was at the parade with his brother and a friend, said he is sympathetic that “aspects of a huge police presence are problematic,” but felt that having officers visible in the vicinity would have helped people in the crowd feel safer during a few bursts of panic.
“The crowd was set up to fail,” said Mr. Rivas, a 33-year-old actor. “I can’t help but say it felt disrespectful. It felt like there was a lot of people in a place that were completely [not cared] for.”
When it came to moving people into the city, TTC spokesman Stuart Green said the system had “a very good day from a transit perspective,” with early figures showing a 70- per-cent increase in ridership compared with a typical Monday. This translates to an estimated 2.7-million rides that generated more than $6-million in revenue on a day of fairly smooth operations, which Mr. Green attributes “to the great planning and service delivery work” of staff.
Metrolinx also experienced record ridership, expecting figures to show double their usual Monday passengers, which is typically around 200,000 on weekdays, CEO Phil Verster said.
There was a massive lineup for UP Express trips for most of the day, though airport travellers were prioritized, Mr. Verster said, adding, “our customers were extremely patient."
With a report from The Canadian Press