A north Oshawa parking lot saw a lot of action on Wednesday night.
Durham Regional Police say more than 300 people were showing off their cars in an unsanctioned car rally.
Acting sergeant with Durham police, George Tudos, says police received several complaints about noise and people not following COVID-19 gathering limits.
“We received calls about people burning out in the parking lot with their tires,” says Tudos. “Also there was issues of people not social distancing, not wearing their masks.”
A picture was shared on social media showing a number of people not wearing masks at the car meet-up, but Erica Meier, who was in attendance, says it doesn’t tell the whole story.
“The majority of people that were there that night were wearing masks,” says Meier, a local car enthusiast.
“It’s just the picture is deceiving. We were keeping our distance and staying within our bubbles.”
Police responded around 8:30 p.m., saying they also had air support from the police helicopter to help with the crowds.
“Everyone left without incident, and as far we can see, no charges were laid,” says Tudos.
Meier says that while she recognizes gathering can be an issue, people for the most part were following the rules. She says the rallies aren’t just about revving car engines, but helping the community.
“You see the passion, you see the love, the dedication that people put into their ride,” says Meier.
“It’s an inspiration, actually. It also affects your mental health in a way, too.”
Currently, Durham region sits in the red zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework, and gatherings are limited to just 25 people outdoors at any given time.
Durham’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Kyle, says he is disappointed in the move, as people in attendance are mixing households together.
“It’s just a recipe for transmission, increased number of cases,” Kyle says.
As we see the light at the end of the pandemic’s tunnel, Kyle says he can appreciate that people are getting restless. Still, he says, residents need to be careful of gathering in larger groups.
“We want to avoid going into the grey zone,” he says. “We have to keep our guard up and discourage unnecessary travel.”
Last year, the OPP busted at least two illegal car rallies, one in Wasaga Beach where residents had issues with burnouts on the road and massive crowds of people converging on the small community. At one point, the mayor even ordered the shutdown of the city borders to try and control the crowds.
Meier says although she knows there are some who can cast a bad light on the activity, for a lot of them, it’s about much more than cars.
“If you actually look at the different sides of our community of where we do charities and our car shows and how we give back to the community, there’s so many different aspects to the car scene,” she says.
Officials say it’s best to avoid large gatherings as the threat of variants of concern is still an issue in the region.
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