G20 protest erupts in violence
TORONTO (CUP) — Saturday’s anti-G20 protest culminated in over 500 arrests, after a mob numbering in the hundreds stormed downtown Toronto streets, smashed shop and bank windows and set police cruisers ablaze.
The riots were largely led by a group donning black clothing, goggles, bandannas and ski masks, who some news outlets are identifying as a black bloc group — a protest tactic in which participants aim to conceal their identity in order to carry out acts of violence. They were joined by members of the activist group No One is Illegal, as well as another socialist group.
Chants of “No justice, no peace, fuck the police!” rang through the air of a city that seemed entirely deserted, aside from protesters and riot police, who hid behind large, transparent shields.
The smashing of glass was punctuated by cheering and the low drone of vuvuzelas.
One employee inside a pizza shop on Yonge St. — one of the city’s main thoroughfares — glared angrily at the rioters through the broken glass of his front window as they marched past.
The band of rioters had broken away from the larger, peaceful protest, filling the intersection of Queen St. West and Spadina Ave. in the downtown core before they ran off toward the East.
Their attempts to approach the summit perimeter, where a three-metre fence has been erected to protect the venue where world leaders are meeting, were foiled by a row of riot police.
Several police cruisers seemed to have been abandoned on King St. West and Bay St., which the angry mob quickly set aflame, sending a plume of thick, black smoke up into the air, where it was visible from across the city for the next few hours.
The protesters then headed north on Yonge St., throwing rocks and smashing large, store-front windows as they passed one of Toronto’s emblematic malls, the Eaton Centre.
There was a notable lack of police intervention; instead, rows of cops lined several adjacent streets and guarded the summit borders, largely allowing the vandalism and rioting to run its course.
“No fences, no borders, fuck law and order!” the mob hollered, along with, “This is what a police state looks like!”
While passing a jewelery store, one young woman shouted, “It’s okay, we don’t need your blood diamonds anyway!”
The mob partially dissipated upon returning to Queen’s Park, the provincial legislative grounds, where police converged on the protesters from two sides and made several arrests.
“I am profoundly disappointed in the criminal acts that have taken place,” said Toronto police chief Bill Blair during a press conference around 9:15 p.m. “I want to ensure you that the persons responsible will be held accountable. We know who many of them are and have photographs of many others.”
Blair confirmed the use of tear gas at Queen St. West and Peter St. where a lot of the violent destruction occurred. He denied the use of rubber bullets and other devices, but photos of the alleged rubber bullets have been posted to Twitter.
“We have never seen that level of wanton criminality on our streets,” Blair said, also describing the day’s events as “shocking.”
The protests continued on into the evening as police tried to regain control of the crowds in several areas of the city. Blair said he expected violent acts to continue through the night.