Rob Ford rally: an exercise in venting

Manisha Krishnan/Maclean's

The lone Rob Ford supporter at a rally protesting the Toronto mayor’s leadership has a message for local media: “Put up or shut up.”

Though crack-video related allegations against the mayor dominate the headlines, there’s still no proof, said Derek Hill.

“He’s been accused and, in many people’s eyes, convicted without any trial, on the basis of anonymous sources.”

Holding up a sign that read “Innocent until proven guilty,” Hill drew the ire of many of the protest’s hundreds of attendees gathered at Nathan Phillips Square Saturday afternoon.

“He’s a disgrace!” shouted one woman while Hill spoke with reporters.

The event, organized on Facebook earlier in week in light of fresh allegations and an exodus of staffers from Ford’s office, was as bizarre a spectacle as the controversy itself.

There were random bursts of chanting — “You are fired!” — and some half-hearted marching, complete with a band. In the periphery, a seemingly oblivious R&B group performing upbeat dance songs and a children’s bouncy castle added to the carnival-esque atmosphere.

But the overwhelming sentiment from protesters — spelled out in chalk all over the concrete — was clear: Ford must resign, immediately.

“I’m just fed up,” said Jen McNeely. The mayor’s “lack of accountability” and refusal to answer questions about the accusations has been most frustrating, she said.

Many in the crowd were veteran Ford protesters, who said they weren’t surprised by the latest series of scandals.

“He’s been doing things like this and covering it up for so long,” said Nathaniel Bacon.

Added Brian Young, who flaunted a massive poster portraying Ford in the likeness of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, “This man does not represent me and he is continuously trying to dismantle democracy.”

But those opposed to Ford’s mayoralty have few real options. Without (and maybe even with) the purported video of him smoking drugs, he can’t be fired. He announced, somewhat defiantly, on Thursday that he plans to run for re-election. So maybe the rally’s real value was that it gave Torontonians, forced to watch from the sidelines as their city government falls into disarray, a chance to vent.

Paula Turco said she’s shocked the mayor has any supporters left.

“That is what is most unbelievable,” she said. “His loyal staffers have left, you can only assume that they know something and they don’t want to be involved.”

But Hill said the so-called Ford Nation knows their man — and they stand by him.

“Ford is Ford. He’s a stubborn kind of fella. The people that elected him know what he’s like; he’s not politically correct and he doesn’t kiss ass.”

It’s hard to argue with that.