Millions of fans flood downtown Toronto for Raptors victory parade
Millions of fans have filled the streets of downtown Toronto on Monday to take in the Raptors‘ victory parade after the team won the NBA Championship title.
Once the parade made its way to Nathan Phillips Square, players and coaching staff were announced, along with Mayor John Tory, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
Tory kicked things off introducing Raptors Way, which will replace part of Bremner Bouleveard. He also told the crowd each Raptors player has been given the key to city, with the official key being given to MVP Kawhi Leonard.
The festivities were interrupted for a period of time as emergency services responded to a shooting in the southeast corner of NPS, near Bay Street. Toronto police said four people were shot and suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Police also said they have three people in custody.
Fans were told to remain calm and stay in place, as well as the team and politicians who were on the stage.
The celebration resumed with each player getting an opportunity to address the crowd, including Pascal Siakam who led fans with a “Spicy P” cheer. Leonard took his time to thank Toronto and Canada.
Brad Ross, a spokesperson with the City of Toronto, estimated that more than two-million people have come out to watch the parade.
“We are in the process of closing Yonge-Dundas Square so people can watch the festivities,” said Ross.
Yonge Street is closed from Dundas to Richmond streets. Dundas Street is closed between Bay and Yonge streets.
“As the parade passes people are following it. Please don’t do that. There is no more room in Nathan Phillips Square,” said Ross.
The parade started at 10 a.m. at the Princes’ Gates, located on the Exhibition Place grounds. It made its way slowly through the steady stream of fans lining the streets.
It then went east on Lake Shore Boulevard West to York Street, then north towards University Avenue before entering Nathan Phillips Square for a celebration rally with the fans from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
However, the parade did not end up at NPS till 3:30 p.m.
The parade featured double-decker buses carrying the team with the trophy as they head to city hall for the fan rally. Kyle Lowry, wearing a Damon Stoudamire jersey with the Raptors’ original logo, held the Larry O’Brien Trophy while Leonard held onto his MVP trophy.
“This is why we wanted to win a championship in Toronto,” Lowry told reporters during the parade.
“It’s amazing. Everybody’s out. Look at it, it’s crazy,” Leonard said.
Danny Green, who came in the Leonard trade last offseason, called the moment “special.”
“A little different than I am used it. We have the whole country behind [us], it’s their first championship,” he said.
Head coach Nick Nurse rode in a blue pickup while Raptors President Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster drove in a black convertible.
Raptors superfan and team ambassador Nav Bhatia served as the honourary parade marshal and rapper Drake shared a float with Lowry and Leonard among others.
WATCH: Raptors victory parade
Drake, a staunch supporter and the team’s global ambassador, has been a fixture at every home game.
The rapper was with the team as they celebrated their historic win in Las Vegas after taking the title Thursday night.
The celebration even provided more “Plant Guys” as Twitter user Jacob Lorinc tweeted a fan walking with a similar one to the now-viral video from the night the Raptors won.
Leonard even went so far as to accept a housewarming plant gift from a fan in the crowd.
At Nathan Phillips Square, City of Toronto officials closed it off to fans at 12:30 p.m. due to overcapacity. They asked any fans to watch the parade on the big screens at Coronation Park instead.
At 2 p.m., fans breached the media area at Nathan Phillips Square and outlets, including Global News, were forced to relocate.
The TTC shutdown Osgoode, Dundas and Queen subway Stations due to overcrowding.
Toronto police tweeted if any children become lost that parents can pick them up at 52 Division.
Several different chants broke out throughout the city, including fans cheering for Ujiri to “stay in Toronto” and chants of “Let’s Go Raptors” and “We The North” took over Nathan Phillips Square while the big screens showed the progress of the parade.
Other fans held signs for Leonard which, “Stay,” in response to the All-Star being a free agent come June 30 at 6 p.m.
Several people climbed the arches at NPS and the festivities had to be put on hold for officials to go on the loudspeaker to tell them to get down due to safety concerns.
Mayor John Tory declared Monday “We The North” Day to honour the team.
“As we gather to celebrate the first NBA championship in Raptors’ history, I encourage everyone in our city to show our support, pride, love and appreciation for this incredible team,” reads the proclamation signed by Tory.
“This is Canada’s team so whether it be red, whether it be black and gold, whether it be the old-school purple, wear it proud and be part of our 24-year run to become world champions,” Tory said.
The Raptors’ historic NBA Championship win last week marked the first time a Canadian team has won one of the big four professional sports championships since the Toronto Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series.
Toronto police put in place a series of rolling road closures for the streets along the parade route which began around 6 a.m. Monday.
WATCH: Raptors victory parade
Police warned fans to travel lightly as chairs, umbrellas, coolers and other large items were not be permitted on Nathan Phillips Square before or during the celebrations.
They also advised parade-goers to be prepared to walk or stand outside for long periods of time.
The City of Toronto also reminded the public to plan ahead. City officials recommend taking public transit, cycling, walking or ride-hailing as those travelling into and out of the city could experience significant delays.
The TTC added additional resources to accommodate the crowds and diverting some routes that conflict with the parade.
Metrolinx said extra GO trains will be available, if needed, to shuttle fans between Union Station and the Exhibition GO.
The Union Station bus terminal will remain open with all routes running during the parade. The public should check schedules for access to Exhibition Station, Metrolinx said.
Fans are expected to be out in full Raptors colours and gear for the rally. A parade-viewing party will also be taking place at Coronation Park, located near the start of the parade, to help relieve congestion along the route.
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Global News will be providing multi-platform live coverage of the historic Raptors parade as it moves through the streets of Toronto.
Viewers are able to watch the event live on Global Television throughout Ontario.
Outside of Ontario, the parade and celebration will be streamed live on Globalnews.ca. Radio listeners can hear live coverage of the event on Global News Radio 640 Toronto.
—With files from Oriena Vuong and the Canadian Press
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