A car meet in Pickering that drew hundreds of people and vehicles is being condemned by the city’s mayor and area residents for flouting COVID-19 restrictions in place to stem the spread of the virus.
According to Durham Regional Police, Sunday’s event began at 2 p.m. and was organized by several car clubs in a parking lot at 1899 Brock Road, between Kingston Road and Pickering Parkway.
The rally attracted over 300 vehicles, with that number steadily increasing throughout the night, police said.
Videos from the scene, which emerged on social media, show a large crowd gathered in a Walmart parking lot among numerous cars, which passed through the crowd revving their engines. At least one car performed stunts, doing doughnuts with the front doors open as a cluster of onlookers cheered.
Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan took to Twitter to denounce the rally on Sunday night, asking residents to not be careless “now that we can see light at the end of this long tunnel.”
“We’re close to returning to some level of normalcy. Don’t do a disservice to the rest of our community,” he said.
‘Just wrong on so many levels,’ says Pickering mayor
In a phone interview with CBC News, Ryan said the meet up was a “total disregard for society” and “just wrong on so many levels.”
He said the gathering violated COVID-19 restrictions, it disrupted the community with noise and traffic, and put people in danger.
“I don’t understand the mentality that’s associated with [the gathering], quite frankly,” Ryan said.
C’mon folks. We know that lockdown has been difficult for all of us. However, let’s not be careless especially now that we can see light at the end of this long tunnel. We’re close to returning to some level of normalcy. Don’t do a disservice to the rest of our community. <a href=”https://t.co/cC6APPROkj”>https://t.co/cC6APPROkj</a>
Police said they were aware of the event on Sunday and monitored the situation. Acting Inspector Sean Sitaram told CBC News officers reminded attendees about restrictions in place for events during the ongoing pandemic.
Video posted on social media did not initially show police presence at the event during the afternoon when engines were roaring, but multiple cruisers appeared in videos posted later into the night.
Sitaram said officers were eventually able to get the crowd to disperse, but some online posters and residents said that process took far too long.
‘It was heartbreaking to see,’ says resident
Jacqueline Willis is a Pickering resident who frequents the Walmart where the gathering took place. She said her friends sent her footage of what was going on Sunday night.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she told CBC Toronto. “It was heartbreaking to see because here we are trying to [stick] to the orders of the premier and stay home…and then something like this happens.”
Willis owns a dance studio in Pickering that has been shuttered throughout the pandemic. She has been conducting virtual classes in order to comply with COVID-19 restrictions and said the people who attended the rally on Sunday were selfish.
“The community around you is doing the right thing… and this type of activity is now going to delay us,” she said.
Willis said the video she saw shows “hundreds and hundreds of people” and “you could see how close they were and how many were unmasked.” She added that police should have shut down the gathering as soon as it started.
Why wasn’t this shut down right when it started?? Why is this ok? I’m sure they are also not only from Pickering or Durham so now they are putting this community at risk 🙄
Some people online criticized what they called the lack of police involvement, as well as Durham police’s slow reaction time.
In a separate tweet, Ryan said police issued some tickets and dispersed the crowd at around dusk. He said he sensed the situation was “too volatile” to attempt to do so when the crowd was at its largest.
Ryan said he expects more charges to be laid pending investigations.
On Monday, Durham police tweeted that one man had sustained injuries at the rally “as a result of a physical confrontation.”
As of Monday morning, police confirmed some tickets were handed out, but they did not say how many. They are also unaware of any charges or arrests in connection with the gathering at this point and they will be “following up on this matter.”
Provincial COVID-19 restrictions currently in place limit outdoor gatherings to a maximum of five people.
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