G20 Protesters Turns Violente; Police Cars On Fire, 150 Arrested

Black-clad demonstrators broke off from a crowd of peaceful demonstrators outside the G20 Summit yesterday afternoon, torching four police cruisers and smashing store windows with baseball bats and hammers. About 150 people have been arrested.

“This isn’t our Toronto and my response is anger.”

David Miller


Police with shields and clubs earlier pushed back another small group of demonstrators who tried to head toward the security fence surrounding the perimeter of the Group of Twenty global economic summit site. Demonstrators hurled bottles at police, setting fire to four police cars and smashing windows at stores and banks.

According to CBC at least 150 protesters have been arrested, and the area around the  G20 meeting is now practically sealed off.

The size of the protest crowd was estimated as high as 10,000.

At least 150 people were arrested as violence broke out after thousands of anti-G20 protesters marched through downtown Toronto on Saturday, prompting police to use tear gas in the city for the first time.

Transit Halted

The boundaries include Wellington Street to the north, Lakeshore and Bremner boulevards to the south, Windsor Street and Blue Jays Way to the west and a section of Bay Street to the east.

Downtown subway service remained suspended, with no service in the loop between Bloor and St. George stations, and there were no streetcars or bus service in the area.

GO train service into and out of Union Station has also been stopped.

The airspace over downtown Toronto was closed, as was the Gardiner Expressway, one of the city’s major traffic arteries.

Some hospitals, hotels, businesses and the tourist attraction the Eaton Centre were also under lockdown.

Police Cars On Fire

“We have seen windows broken and police cars burned. It is very regrettable that such vandalism and violence could not be prevented. I want to assure you that the persons responsible will be held accountable,” Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said at a news conference.

“I am profoundly disappointed in the criminal acts which have taken place,” he said.

Four police vehicles were set ablaze, store and bank windows were smashed and much of the area was put under security lockdowns.

At least 150 people were arrested, the Integrated Security Unit said.

Throughout the evening, police moved people east along Queen Street. Police were still trying to move small groups out of the downtown core early Sunday, hours after most demonstrators had gone home.

Shortly before 8 p.m., a police vehicle that had been damaged earlier in the day on Queen Street, just east of Spadina Avenue, was torched. Police in riot gear descended near the burning wreckage to push people back.

Two police cruisers were torched earlier at the corner of King and Bay streets in the heart of the financial district, sending plumes of black smoke into the air.

As one vehicle burned, protesters surrounded officers who were trying to protect the second car, CBC reporter Amber Hildebrandt reported on Twitter.

Officers Assaulted

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair blamed the destruction on violent “anarchists” and said several of their leaders were arrested.

Blair said that throughout the day some of his officers were pelted with rocks, bricks and bottles, spat upon and assaulted, but none suffered major injuries.

Blair confirmed that tear gas was deployed once — for the first time in Canada’s largest city — “after a warning was given to the public about its impending use.”

But he denied that rubber bullets were used.

As the evening wore on, the area around the Ontario legislature at Queen’s Park emerged as a major focal point. Several hundred police in riot gear — many on horseback — ringed government buildings and lined streets in the area, as well as the nearby park grounds, nationalpost.com reports.

This Isn’t Our Toronto

“This isn’t our Toronto and my response is anger,” Toronto Mayor David Miller told CP24 television.

David Miller also blamed a small group of “thugs” for the violence.

“People are calling them protesters. That is not fair to the people who came to protest,” he said.

Previous major world summits have attracted massive, raucous protests by anti-globalization forces. But so far the Canadian demonstrations have been smaller, with rain apparently discouraging some.

Bill Blair said police were sent to that area because many members of a mob were seen going there to change clothes.

Asked whether police were slow to respond to the violence, Blair said a mob had emerged from the initially peaceful protest and broke into several groups of vandals.

“It did take us some time to move our resources,” he said.

Blair later said police are reviewing their tactics, “what worked and what didn’t work as well.”

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said free speech is a principle of our democracy “but the thugs that prompted violence earlier today represent in no way, shape or form the Canadian way of life.”

With the violence escalating in the heart of Canada’s largest city, the entire area around the G20 political summit site at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre — enclosed by concrete barricades and fences — was under a security lockdown.

You’re able to follow the G20 meeting live at Reuters.

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