Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has had a pretty rough two weeks. First came the revelation that a long-rumoured video in which he smokes crack cocaine was in police possession, leading the Mayor of Canada’s largest city to admit that he had indeed smoked crack during a “drunken stupor.” Days later, the Toronto Star released another video, this one showing Ford intoxicated and yammering on about hurting or killing someone.
While one can’t underestimate his family’s staying power, it looks like Ford’s days may well be numbered.
Of course the media has had a field day with Ford’s larger than life meltdown. But the real story isn’t the mayor’s personal drug use or addiction problem.
The real story is about a Police chief who presided over an unprecedented removal of democratic rights during the G20 protest and an intensified criminalization of racialized communities suddenly being called a hero, when his recent statements and exposures can not be separated from his ongoing negotiations with city politicians over the size of the police budget.
The real story is Somali youth attempting to get out of the ghetto in housing projects in Dixon, only to be “swept up” by militarized police forces in “Project Traveller.” Just as Native people are criminalized for selling “contraband” cigarettes, Somali and other racialized youth in poor areas of Toronto are criminalized for their involvement in the drug trade.
The media and the police prefer to concentrate on the sensationalism of a politician taking drugs. Some have pointed out that one of the reasons the story got so much “play” in the first place was due to the common perception of crack-cocaine being a “Black drug”, as opposed to the powder cocaine that most of those of Ford’s class would normally take.
However fascinating and humorous the Ford persona happens to be, it mustn’t distract us from the real story. One hint at this story was in the original Gawker article that “broke” the story, precipitating the coverage in the Toronto Star.
This Gakwer article referred to networks of drug dealers that serve not merely Rob Ford’s vast appetites, but the elite in Toronto in general. Short on the heels of this was an investigative series in the Globe and Mail, detailing the Ford family’s long standing history with the drug trade.
Rumors continue to circulate in City Hall about the legacy of Ford’s “crime family” with some suggesting that connections to gun-running and the smuggling of heroin, cocaine and hashish run much deeper than what the media has told us so far. It is definitely worth mentioning that when Mohammed Farah, the community organizer who helped broker the viewing (and potential sale) of the video to the Star and Gawker, appeared on the CBC, he mentioned that in the face of the story, all sorts of people “involved in organized crime” started showing up in Dixon, alternating offers of lots of cash with threats on the other hand.
Likewise, a friend who used to smoke up with Ford appeared on camera only in shadows, and with his voice disguised. This is not to mention Ford’s close friendship with the well known gangster Alexander “Sandro” Lisi, now awaiting trial for extortion.
The real story here is damage control for the ruling classes. In the final analysis, Ford is now a liability for them.
His recklessness is affecting the smooth functioning of business, whether legal or illegal. Ever a loose cannon, Ford’s actions are continuing to bring light to the organized crime networks that put drugs and guns in our communities in the first place, and that then justify increased police budgets and control to remove them.