Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday September 22, 2020
No charges laid at ‘mega meet’ car rally in Ancaster; Premier Ford calls gathering ‘totally unacceptable’
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is calling an impromptu car “mega meet” that saw several hundred people gather in an Ancaster parking lot Saturday night “totally unacceptable” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to media Sunday, Hamilton police Supt. Will Mason said officers arrived at the parking lot of the Ancaster Cineplex Cinemas at 771 Golf Links Rd just shortly after 6 p.m. following a tip from the Project Eliminate Racing Activity on Streets Everywhere (ERASE) team.
Mason said the task force — which consists of the OPP as well as York and Peel Regional Police forces — had informed Hamilton police that an event coined “Mega Meet 2.0” was planned for that evening in the area.
When officers arrive on scene, Mason said they found a “large group” of vehicles already setting up in the parking lot.
Over the next hour, Mason said the group “swelled” to completely fill the movie theatre lot, the adjacent Indigo bookstore lot and had “spilled” into the smaller surrounding lots.
In a statement Sunday, Ford said the “reckless behaviour” seen in the lots was “totally unacceptable.”
“While Ontario has made incredible progress in the fight against COVID-19, we cannot take that progress for granted,” he added.
With an initial response of three Hamilton police officers, Mason said the force called in the ERASE team for assistance to “prevent a repeat of previous incidents.”
No charges — neither traffic violations or for gathering in large groups — were laid during the police response, said Mason.
On Saturday morning, Ford announced that the province would be clamping down on the number of people allowed at social gatherings in Ontario to slow the spread of the virus.
Effective immediately, private, unmonitored gatherings are to be limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
Saturday evening’s event garnered several hundred people — well beyond the limit, said Mason.
“The goal at that time was to disperse the crowd as quickly as possible. That helps us mitigate both the risk of COVID-19 as well as the risk of street racing,” he said. “Stopping all of those individuals and issuing fines just exacerbates the size and the duration of that gathering.” (Hamilton Spectator)