Toronto mayor wants rainbow protest flag removed

TORONTO (AP) - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wants to remove a rainbow flag at City Hall that protests Russia's law restricting gay-rights activities, and he hoisted a Canadian flag in his office window in response on Friday.

Some city halls across Canada raised the rainbow flag as the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics began in Sochi, Russia.

"It's not about someone's sexual preference," Ford said. "I do not agree with putting up the rainbow flag. We should put our Canadian flag up."

City spokeswoman Jackie DeSouza said the city's chief of protocol approved flying the rainbow flag for the next two weeks after a local community center requested it. DeSouza said the mayor doesn't have the authority to take the flag down.

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said flying the rainbow flag is a sign of solidarity.

Two police officers were seen later Friday entering the mayor's office. Amin Massoudi, a spokesman for the mayor, said the police were there because of a "message we received about a potential threat to the mayor and his family." Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said police responded to a "service call" and declined to elaborate.

Massoudi said he wasn't aware whether it had anything to do with the flag.

Others in Toronto have taken up the cause. The Toronto-based Canadian Institute for Diversity and Inclusion, a nonprofit that works to improve diversity in the workplace, released a satirical video on YouTube featuring a two-man luge team rhythmically taking flight in slow motion, set to the 1980s hit "Don't You Want Me." It ends with the words on screen, "The Games have always been a little gay. Let's fight to keep them that way."

The mayor of Canada's largest city has made international headlines for his erratic behavior after acknowledging last year that he had smoked crack cocaine while in a drunken stupor. He has resisted pressure to step down and is seeking re-election, though the city council has stripped him of much of his powers. His erratic behavior has embarrassed many Canadians.

Earlier this week, Ford said he would never attend the city's annual gay pride parade and said, "I'm not going to change the way I am."

Some criticized his comments as homophobic. He has previously said he skipped the June event because he faithfully attends a family cottage on the weekend of Canada's birthday.

Councilor Doug Ford defended his brother, saying he isn't homophobic.

Doug Ford said he's been to the parade but won't bring his kids again because he doesn't "condone middle-aged men running down the middle of the street buck naked."

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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