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Shirtless protesters crash Ford news event

TORONTO - A group of shirtless protesters crashed a news conference by Rob Ford on Tuesday, heckling the Toronto mayor by shouting for him to resign.

Ford did not appear concerned by the protest but Citytv reported that his sobriety coach was scolded by a police officer at the event for allegedly kicking one of the protesters.

"If you want me to help you out, you can't be kicking him," a police officer is seen saying partially on camera in video the TV station posted to its website.

"I saw you kick him. I saw it happen," Citytv reported the officer continued saying off camera.

No charges were laid, it said.

Ford was speaking about his opposition to a proposed transit project but was nearly drowned out by the small but vocal group of demonstrators.

The group, inspired by a shirtless jogger whose rant at Ford during a Canada Day event touched off a social media frenzy, stood around Ford and shouted that he should step down.

Ford said he wasn't bothered by the demonstrators — at one point stopping his speech to chuckle — and said "they can protest all they want."

John Furr, who organized the protest via Twitter, said the message of the group is that "average Torontonians are fed up."

"We have to stop the narrative of the Fords that wherever he goes he's treated like a rock star," Furr, 52, said. "He's not. Most people avoid him like the plague."

Furr said this is the second protest organized by the group — the first was on Friday outside the Newstalk 1010 studio where Ford was giving an interview.

Connie Boudens, 52, was among the protesters on Tuesday.

She said there is a lack of transparency in Ford's administration, and "he hasn't taken responsibility for things he's done in the past."

Since Ford returned last week from two months in rehab he has given a handful of interviews, but has not taken questions from city hall journalists about the circumstances surrounding his alcohol and drug use, the company he kept and offensive remarks he has made.

"We all thought when Rob Ford came back from rehab that things were going to change," Boudens said, adding that she still sees his office as "secretive."

"There were all these outstanding questions people wanted answered," she said. "Now that he has come back, it's back to being a circus."

Boudens said Tuesday's protest created a "contentious" atmosphere, with Ford supporters voicing disagreement with the shirtless protest group.

"It was a little bit chaotic," she said.

At the end of the news conference Ford said he would take questions on the transit proposal and answered two about that issue and one about the protesters before leaving.

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