‘This is unbelievable:’ Raptors dazzled by massive crowds at downtown Toronto parade

Mayor John Tory declares it ‘We The North Day’ after team’s historic NBA title win

Large stretches of downtown Toronto turned into a sea of red and black on Monday as Raptors fans turned out in droves to celebrate the newly crowned NBA champions, the massive crowds raising safety concerns as officials urged supporters to watch the festivities from afar.

Fans dressed in the team’s colours packed the parade route while a square outside city hall where the march was to end overflowed with people of all ages. Police worked to stop more supporters from entering the square, which the city said was at capacity.

The masses proved too much for some, who were helped over a barricade by police at Nathan Phillips Square to escape the crush. At one point, officers pulled a semi-conscious child over the barrier and onto a stretcher. Several subway stations near the route were also shut down due to overcrowding.

Nicolas Caramanna, 21, said he’d been in the crowd since 9 a.m. and the gathering soon got rowdy.

“I’m really hot and tired but I’m going to stick around,” he said. “When else am I going to get a chance to do this?”

As the parade inched forward — noticeably behind schedule — members of the Raptors smiled from open top double-decker buses, some splashing the crowds with champagne. At one point, Kyle Lowry, the longest-serving member of team, was seen hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy while some of his teammates smoked cigars.

“This is unbelievable,” Lowry said.

Kawhi Leonard, one of the team’s star players, also marvelled at the fan response. “Thank you Toronto, thank you Canada for the support, we did it,” he said.

READ MORE: Delirious fans celebrate as Raptors win NBA title

Canadian rapper Drake, one the team’s most famous supporters, was alongside players, smiling broadly.

Many fans said they decided not to go to school or work so they could attend the celebration.

“I actually have exams this week but being here is worth it,” said 15-year-old Cypher Sabanal, whose mother let him skip school to attend the parade.

John Moreira, meanwhile, had called in sick to work so he could be part of the crowd.

“I told my boss I wanted to be at the parade and he said there wasn’t much he could do if I called in sick so that’s exactly what I did,” said the 31-year-old. “I’m looking forward to seeing the whole team. They all work so hard and deserve all the fans being out here.”

Some in the crowd had camped out all weekend in the hopes of nabbing a prime spot along the parade route or at Nathan Phillips Square.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scheduled to be among those celebrating, with a brief visit to Toronto planned for later in the day.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was also expected to watch the festivities from Nathan Phillips Square. His press secretary said Ford wanted the day to be about the fans and players, not politicians.

Mayor John Tory declared Monday “We The North Day” in Toronto, after the NBA champions’ slogan. Dressed in his now-famous black-and-gold Raptors blazer, the mayor urged all fans to come celebrate the team’s historic win.

The last time the city held a sports celebration of this magnitude was after the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993. That parade saw fans climbing trees and statues on city streets to catch a glimpse of a team that included Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar.

RELATED: Toronto Raptors and their diverse team celebrated worldwide

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Crowds gather in Nathan Phillips Square as they prepare to celebrate the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA Championship in Toronto on Monday, June 17, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

Just Posted

‘Best in the country’: Formerly homeless man praises Victoria’s outreach services

Jay W. was living on the streets of downtown Victoria in 2018

City of Victoria plans workshop to determine fate of Sir John A. Macdonald statue

Conversations will happen as part of a reconciliation dialogue series in May 2020

Years of ‘horrific, violent accidents’ at Thetis Lake prompt plea to public

View Royal fire chief asks for an end to alcohol consumption at busy park

Islanders have new cancer screening option with $6.5 M diagnostic suite in Victoria

The Gordon Heys Family PET/CT Suite was unveiled at the BC Cancer Centre-Victoria

Unsealed record suggests U.S. man convicted in murder of Saanich couple left DNA on zip tie in 1987

William Talbott is set to be sentenced Wednesday in the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Family of missing B.C. senior with dementia frustrated with situation, heartened by community support

Nine days since Grace was last seen the question remains: ‘How can an 86-year-old just disappear?’

Police ask for help locating missing men last seen in South Surrey

Jeep that Richard Scurr and Ryan Provencher were in has been located unoccupied in Logan Lake: RCMP

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Sexual assaults, extortion on the rise even as crime rates stay low: Stats Canada

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

Most Read