More than 560 were arrested in Toronto over the weekend as the G20 meeting was held behind the tightest security cordon in the summit’s history. Violence began after a small group of “black bloc” anarchists broke away from the main march to smash the windows of banks and chain stores and torch two police cars. But hundreds of peaceful protesters were swept up by police who used batons, tear gas, pepper spray and plastic bullets. It is said to be the first time Toronto police have used tear gas.
Both Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association are calling for investigations into the police action. Amnesty said that even before the anarchist rampage, “protesters were faced with high fences, new weaponry, massive surveillance, and the intimidating impact of the overwhelming police presence.”
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said that an internal task force will examine “all aspects” of summit policing by the municipal forces, Ontario Provincial Police and RCMP in the G20 Integrated Security Unit. The report, which has no deadline, will be submitted to the Toronto Police Services board, comprised of city councilors and public representatives.
Police also displayed items allegedly seized during raids, including a machete, bike helmets, body armor and gas masks during the morning news conference. “They came to attack our city. They came to attack the summit. They came to commit crimes and to victimize people in the city,” Blair said, calling the items proof of a “criminal conspiracy” by radical elements. (Toronto Star, June 29; The Guardian, June 27)
There were similar headlines after the Geneva WTO summit last year.
See our last post on the struggle in Canada.