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AIDS activists protest Ford’s first day as mayor

Ford declares "the war on the car stops today"

AIDS Action Now's Alex McClelland at a Dec 1 protest to mark Mayor Rob Ford's first day on the job. Credit: Andrea Houston

Amid chants of “Shame” and “Not my mayor,” AIDS Action Now’s Alex McClelland got behind the microphone and declared that Mayor Rob Ford “doesn’t give a shit” about him because he is HIV-positive.

“This is World AIDS Day, and it’s a sad day to welcome our new mayor, who hates people living with HIV,” McClelland roared while a protest in front of city hall grew in numbers on Dec 1. The protest was called Give Ford the Welcome He Deserves.

“When Rob Ford was in council in 2006, he said, ‘If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you probably won’t get AIDS.’”

“Shame!” screamed the crowd of about 150 protesters, many carrying Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) banners, CUPE flags and homemade anti-Ford signs.

McClelland admits Ford got some of his information right. About 56 percent of HIV infections in Toronto are among gay men and three percent of infections are among injection drug users, he says.

“But what Ford really said with this statement is HIV happens to people he doesn’t give a shit about, and that our city shouldn’t fund programs to prevent new HIV infections,” McClelland says.

“I am one of those people that Rob Ford doesn’t give a shit about. And I’m here to let him know on behalf of people living with HIV across Toronto that we are citizens of Toronto and we are assured our rights, including our right to health.”

People with HIV/AIDS will not stay silent and will not stop fighting, McClelland vows.

“People with HIV are fierce opposition,” he says. “We will fight and resist his ignorance and stupidity every step of the way.”

The protest in Nathan Phillips Square, organized by OCAP and No One Is Illegal, a group that fights for the rights of undocumented people, marked Ford’s first official day as Toronto’s new mayor.

While the protest raged outside, inside Ford held a brief press conference and declared, “The war on the car stops today,” vowing to cut the car registration tax on Jan 1. Ford also pledged to chop councillor expense accounts from $50,000 to $30,000.

He also promised to begin the process to declare the TTC an essential service.

Earlier in the day Ford met with TTC chief general manager Gary Webster to emphasize that subways are preferable to the 120 kilometres of streetcar routes laid out by Mayor David Miller, dubbed Transit City.

“I was given a mandate to deliver on subways,” Ford told media.

Ford could get a Transit City motion introduced to the new city council as early as Dec 16.

The first council meeting is Dec 7.