Toronto to 'improve' parade planning after chaotic Raptors celebration
The City of Toronto will review its championship parade plans in the wake of the Toronto Raptors‘ quickly assembled celebration on Monday, which was marred by gun violence, poor timing and overcrowding in the downtown core.
Four people were shot in separate incidents at the massive event on Monday, which attracted more than the expected 1.5 million fans along the parade route. The shootings triggered chaos among fans, sending some briefly scrambling for cover.
Police say several children were separated from their parents in the panic. Some fans also claimed to have been trampled. However, no one was killed.
“When you see a bunch of people coming at you, you don’t know what to do,” Raptors fan Sam Sunday told the Associated Press. “You don’t want to get stampeded over.”
“I just grabbed my buddies’ hands and ran,” said Mike Mudidi, who was also in the crowd.
WATCH: Police react to shootings at Toronto Raptors championship parade
Traffic ground to a halt, overcrowded subways were forced to shut down and police struggled to contain the tremendous influx of fans eager to witness the city’s first championship celebration in over a quarter-century on Monday. Many of them were forced to watch the parade on outdoor screens at overflow areas around the city.
Organizers had anticipated up to two million fans, but some estimates suggest there may have been more.
On Tuesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory tweeted that the city will try to improve its parade plans in hopes of seeing more in the future from basketball and “other sports.”
Tory also applauded Raptors fans for a “peaceful and orderly” day.
On the basis that we should plan for future successes of this kind in basketball & other sports, our City Manager Chris Murray will be working with Police, the TTC, other city departments and our sports teams to review the details of yesterday's parade & see how we can improve.
— John Tory (@JohnTory) June 18, 2019
Security experts say the festivities went about as well as anyone could hope for, given how quickly they were planned, however the city can definitely improve on its plans next time.
“I think there’s some lessons to be learned,” said Jim Rovers, a security and crisis management expert for AFIMAC Canada.
Rovers says police did a good job of setting up barricades to protect the crowd from potential vehicle attacks. However, he criticized the parade planners for picking a route that wound all the way from the Canadian National Exhibition to city hall at Nathan Phillips Square.
“Maybe you make the parade route more of a direct line,” he said. “It seemed to be very long to get to (Nathan Phillips Square).”
WATCH: Millions flock to downtown Toronto to celebrate Raptors
Former Toronto police officer Mark Valois says the Raptors should have started their parade from Jurassic Park in front of the Scotiabank Arena and taken a more direct route to city hall.
“Why not do it right in front of the stadium?” said Valois, director of academic training at the Canadian Tactical Officers Association.
Valois says it’s very difficult to prevent gun violence in large, tightly packed crowds because “bad guys” wait for such a crowd to use as cover. Those crowds make it easy for a person to hide and hard for law enforcement to get to them once an event occurs.
“There’s always those particular individuals,” Valois told Global News. He added that organizers could have set up bag checks inside the gated parade area, but those checks likely won’t stop determined individuals. “They’re going to bypass those barricades somehow anyway,” he said.
Rovers said a bag check would have been difficult given the sheer volume of people, although organizers could have made it work.
WATCH: Toronto Raptors thank their fans
Valois said organizers could have also done a better job clearing a path for the championship bus, which inched through crowds along most of the parade route.
“I don’t think everybody was anticipating that huge amount of people to be in that small area at once,” he said. “It’s a learning experience for everybody.”
Rovers and Valois both said the parade was a largely positive event.
“It’s certainly a learning curve,” Rovers said. “And it was a big one.”
—With files from Global News’ Jesse Ferreras