Siri Agrell and Colin Freeze
Globe and Mail Update Published on Saturday, Jun. 26, 2010 4:48PM EDT Last updated on Sunday, Jun. 27, 2010 11:45AM EDT
Hope for a peaceful G20 weekend disappeared after windows were smashed from police headquarters to the business district, and police cars were torched by a contingent of violent protesters.
Mayor David Miller angrily denounced the act of a small group of protesters who broke windows along Queen Street West and throughout the downtown core, and set two police cruisers ablaze.
“This isn’t our Toronto,” Mr. Miller told CP24. “My response is anger. We have thousands of people peaceably asserting their democratic right to speak up. And a relatively small group, probably a few hundred, mostly people who seem to be not from Toronto, come here on all evidence to commit deliberate acts of violence. I think all Torontonians should outraged by that.”
He said he had “absolute confidence” in Police Chief Bill Blair, and said the Chief had told him they intended to “move very strongly” against the violent protesters. But he also urged people to be calm, and if they are visiting the downtown area where violent protests are under way, to leave.
The Mayor said Torontonians should be angry with the violent protesters: “I think Torontonians should be very angry with people who would come to burn cars and break windows ... to make, I don’t know what kind of statement they intend to make, except about themselves.”
Police fear the worst may not yet be over. "It's going to be a be a very long night," said Mike McCormack, head of the Toronto Police Association. He said fresh officers are poised to take the night shift.
That no officers or members of the public were seriously hurt is a silver lining to this day's events, Mr. McCormack said. He expects that at some point, police leaders will sit down and look at whether protester countermeasures were adequately planned by police. But "at some point it becomes a logistical nightmare," he said.
Mr. McCormack said that the radical protesters who attacked police cruisers and police headquarters were absolutely "disgusting" – unlike anything he has seen in two decades of being a cop.
Claudia Calabro, of the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, blamed today’s violence on police presence.
“People are angry when you pen them in,” she said. “The marshalling was extremely poor. The excessive police presence has completely bulldozed our message.”
Ms. Calabro said the group opposes the G20 and would not denounce the tactics of protesters.
A distraught Adam Vaughan, whose ward was the site of today's violence, laid blame with the protagonists, and the event that brought them to toronto.
"Who brings a pick-axe to a demonstration? Not a protester, a psychopath," he said. "But how about Stephen Harper not bringing this to toronto? How about Stephen Harper giving us more than six months to plan?"
Premier Dalton McGuinty condemned those responsible for the acts of vandalism and violence. "There is no need for it," he said in a statement on Saturday evening. "There is no excuse for it."
The vast majority of the demonstrators have been peaceful and responsible, he said. "However, willful, mindless destruction and violence have no place in our province. I appeal to all involved to allow calm to prevail."
Protesters, police and bystanders all have different takes on Saturday's events.
Kitty Wong says she was dancing in front of police as a peaceful protest when one officer in riot gear kicked her in the shin before retreating behind two other officers. Shaken up as she spoke about the incident on Spadina, she said, "I feel we did everything to be peaceful."
Elsewhere, a few people chatted over half-eaten plates of sushi at Sushi Time Japanese restaurant on Queen Street. Waitress Ada Han said she didn't even have to lock her door when the protesters marched by.
"I don't want to justify a billion dollar budget by wrecking shit," said Craig Herbert, another bystander. So he borrowed a broom from the Ram in the Rye pub, where he works, and headed to nearby Yonge and College. There, he swept up glass outside a Starbucks and a Tim Hortons and kept sweeping on Yonge. "I like my city," he said.
Protester Jacob Pries gestures down Adelaide towered Yonge to tell the crowd there is an free path to the fence. "It just makes sense to be as close to the leaders as possible to make our voices heard," he said. Some felt the call to action and started walking. Some stayed behind to stare down the police line. Many ended up milling about on Adelaide and sauntering towards Yonge.
"I think people are exhausted," said Kaitlin, who declined to give her last name, as she sat with friends on the curb.
At the same time, around the corner on Spadina, a group of about 40 OPP officers in riot gear sat on the sidewalk, legs splayed, black boots turned to either side. They leaned against trees and fire hydrants, sweat pouring down their faces as they took turns resting from the confrontations just up the street.
Janice Solomon, executive director of the Toronto Entertainment District BIA, watched the violence from her condominium on University.
“I am so angry this happened,” she said. “This is a city where we’ve had demonstrations of all different sizes and issues without incident. Here we are, we have this rogue group, probably not even from Toronto, and they think this is okay and it’s not.”
Ms. Solomon said she expected the impact on downtown business owners to be profound, not just in terms of damage but lost revenue.
“I don’t see how anyone will stay open now,” she said on Saturday afternoon. “I think it’s just inexcusable.”
A Starbucks at Queen and John had its windows smashed and the manager pleaded with people to stop taking pictures. “What’s the point of all this?” he yelled. “What about peaceful protest?”
The day’s events began with a “People First!” march organized by various labour and women’s groups. The planned protest began at Queen’s Park North and made its way down University Avenue and along Queen. But when the majority of demonstrators turned north on Spadina Avenue, a small group doubled back and began destroying property on Queen Street West.
Demonstrators also broke the windows of several businesses, including a Scotiabank, CIBC, a McDonald's, Starbucks and an American Apparel. Protesters also threw bricks at a CBC van, breaking its windows. TTC streetcars were abandoned on Queen Street; two were spraypainted with anti-summit graffit and anarchy symbols. A jewellry store was looted at Yonge Street and Gerrard Street. On College Street a Tim Horton’s, a Winners and another Starbucks were smashed open.
Gord Smith, general manager at the Yonge and Dundas Adidas store, spoke to a reporter moments after it was just destroyed by protesters.
No one inside was hurt, according to Mr. Smith. The police gave them enough warning to get all the customers out, though about 10 employees were in the store.
He seemed upset, but resigned. “Well it already happened so what can you do?” he said.
Protestors cleared the area moments later and a crowd gathered to take pictures of the broken glass while Mr. Smith tried to move them along.
Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour and one of the march’s organizers, said he learned of the violence when he arrived back at Queen’s Park.
“I’m pretty ticked off about it,” he said. “Now the message coming out is not the positive one we had developed. Everyone is now focused in on the violence.”
Mr. Ryan said his group had gone to great lengths to work with police to ensure the demonstration was peaceful and said he fully supported efforts to bring the violence to an end.
“These guys burned a police car, you’ve got to stop that kind of stuff,” he said. “The whole notion of using the cover of our demonstration to do this really makes me mad.”
The small number of violent protesters among peaceful ones are preventing their message from being heard, said protester Dawn Wildman, who marched downtown alongside thousands of people to Queen's Park.
"They give us a bad name," said Ms. Wildman, who joined the march to protest the amount of money spent on summit security. "Peaceful events are what we're about."
Protester Brandon Miller called the small group of protesters dressed in black at the steering wheel of the violence "ninjas," who weren't working together with the other protesters – in fact, they were intimidating them with their behaviour, he said.
With files from Jeff Gray, Katie Hewitt, Laura Blenkinsop, Natalie Stechyson, Cigdem Iltan, Siri Agrell and Globe staff