Street-racing group stages ‘mega meet’ in Hamilton amid COVID-19 restrictions

A group of street racers from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) took over a parking lot in Ancaster for what police are calling a “mega meet,” with hundreds of people in attendance on Saturday night.

The event happened just hours after the Ford government announced that it would be implementing new gathering restrictions across the province in response to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

According to Hamilton police Staff Sgt. Steve Ley, police were notified about the meet by York Regional Police on Saturday evening, which was set to take place in the Cineplex Ancaster parking lot in the Meadowlands.

Officers from York police, as well as Peel Regional Police and Ontario Provincial Police, were investigating as part of Project ERASE, which targets street racing across multiple regions — which, police say, has increased during the pandemic, while streets are less busy.

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Read more: Toronto police to crack down on stunt driving after significant uptick in incidents

When Hamilton police officers arrived on the scene at around 6 p.m., Ley said there was already a “yard group” set up.

“And then over the next hour, the group swelled to several hundred vehicles, filling the theatre lot, and into the smaller lot.”

Police cars blocked off part of the intersection at Golf Links Road, as well as the various entrances to the Cineplex parking lot, in an attempt to control the number of vehicles entering.

Ley said he doesn’t believe any tickets were handed out for exceeding the number of people permitted in outdoor gatherings — which has now been reduced to 25 from 100.

Ley said the immediate goal of officers was to enforce from a traffic safety perspective and remove the group, which he said left sometime between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Ley said there was no street racing at the gathering.

Read more: New COVID-19 gathering restrictions expanded to all of Ontario

It’s unclear exactly how many people attended the gathering, but stories posted publicly to Snapchat show far more than 25 people walking around the parking lot without face masks.

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Spokespeople for York police and Peel police could not immediately confirm whether their officers handed out any tickets for exceeding the limit on outdoor gatherings, saying their focus was on enforcing traffic safety as part of Project ERASE.

A statement from Premier Doug Ford condemned the gathering.

“The reckless behaviour that we saw in Ancaster last night was totally unacceptable,” said Ford. “While Ontario has made incredible progress in the fight against COVID-19, we cannot take that progress for granted. This fight isn’t over and now is not the time to let our guard down. Our actions will determine Ontario’s course as we prepare for a potential second wave.”

Sandy Shaw, the NDP MPP for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, took to Twitter on Sunday morning to speak out against the event, which she referred to as an “illegal gathering.”

“This was a very dangerous situation that risked our safety,” wrote Shaw.

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