Rob Ford apologizes for Ford Fest clash between fans, LGBT activists

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has apologized for the confrontation between his supporters and LGBT protesters at Friday's Ford Fest.

Toronto mayor's annual festival draws thousands of supporters to public park for free picnic

An LGBT rights supporter says he was assaulted at Ford Fest after some in the crowd began jeering at the activists. Rob Ford has apologized for the confrontations a day after his annual festival. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has apologized for the confrontation between his supporters and LGBT activists at Friday's Ford Fest.

Ford fans got into verbal confrontations with protesters at the annual festival at a park in the city's east end. At one point, a few Ford fans grabbed the protesters' signs, tore them up, threw them on the ground and stamped on them. An LGBT rights supporter also claimed to have been assaulted.

Ford said he didn't personally see the commotion because he was in a tent meeting with his supporters, but he still apologized for what happened.

“It's terrible things like that happen,” he said in an interview on Saturday with CP24 while attending the Taste of Toronto food festival. “I apologize and we have to move on.”

He also thanked Ford Fest supporters, saying the event drew more than 1,500 people.

His brother and city councillor Doug Ford also apologized for the clash, calling it "unfortunate."

World Pride festival controversy

On Friday, about six demonstrators protesting what they called Ford's homophobia turned up at Thomson Memorial Park in Scarborough, holding signs that called for the mayor's departure from office.

"He needs to be held accountable," said Poe Liberado, who faced loud jeers from Ford fans.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was greeted by a huge crowd of supporters when he arrived at his annual Ford Fest Friday. (Tashauna Reid/CBC)

"His buffoonery is dangerous, his positions are dangerous and he needs to be taken seriously."

Ford drew heat from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community recently after he remained seated while city council gave a standing ovation to organizers of Toronto's World Pride festival.

He didn't answer questions from reporters about why he didn't stand up, but said he's not homophobic.

"He's a disgrace," said protester Kevin Speight. "He's embarrassing our city."

The mayor's supporters, however, weren't pleased with the anti-Ford sentiment, and number of individuals got into verbal confrontations with the protesters.

"Go home," they yelled. "This is Ford Nation!"

Horse incident

Police said they investigated the incident involving an LGBT rights supporter, but he did not wish to allege that he had been assaulted, so no charges were laid.

The man was escorted away from the park to prevent further issues and he left willingly, said Staff Sgt. Tony Forchione.

About 15 to 20 police officers, including five paid duty officers, were at the event, he said.

City officials approved a permit for the party despite concerns from Ford opponents that it is a campaign event that violates municipal rules banning campaigning in public parks.

Sarah Thomson arrives by horse and buggy at city hall in March, where she officially filled out her papers to become a candidate in the 2014 mayoral race. (Steven D'Souza/CBC)

City spokesperson Jackie DeSouza told CBC News after Ford Fest that there were no violations of the conditions of the park permit, such as putting up election signs or distributing campaign materials.

Mayoral candidate Sarah Thompson arrived at Ford Fest on a horse. She had arrived at city hall by horse and carriage in March when filling out nomination papers.

Thompson was asked to remove the horse from the park because it was in violation of city bylaws, DeSouza said.

“She complied as soon as she was warned,” DeSouza told CBC News.

Bylaw staff will discuss the horse incident with senior staff to determine if Thomson will be fined, DeSouza said.

With files from The Canadian Press


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