While world leaders gathered in Toronto for the G20 summit, chaos ensued outside on the streets. An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people gathered to protest. Although the majority came peacefully, a small but vocal group engaged in Black Bloc tactics, vandalizing and looting stores and setting police cars on fire.
Toronto’s Police Department is under major criticism for how it handled the event, mainly being that they were too lax in the beginning when the chaos was at its worst and then unnecessarily aggressive on Sunday when there was less mayhem. The police began to use tear gas and plastic or rubber bullets in the evening on Saturday despite the fact that by then the number of protestors had significantly gone down. On Sunday the police reportedly got tougher. At one point a mounted police unit charged into a crowd of protestors. In the evening, police detained hundreds of protestors and bystanders in an intersection for hours during a heavy rainstorm when they suspected some of the protestors were associated with the Black Bloc.
Another point of criticism is the fact that the police had the power to arrest anyone who refused to identify themselves or agree to be searched, a regulation quietly granted by the provincial government without debate in the Legislature. This led to the unnecessary arrests of many, including tourists, journalists and bystanders. Over 900 people were arrested this past weekend, the largest mass arrest in Canada.
On Monday, people took to the streets again, but to protest the police’s behavior instead. Around 1,000 people gathered around the headquarters of the Toronto Police Service calling for the release of those still being detained. Amnesty International Canada is calling for an independent investigation of the security measures put in place for the summit.
Toronto Mayor David Miller commended the police for their work and remarked, “I think those criticisms…illustrate the very, very difficult job the police had in trying to allow … people’s right to free speech and demonstrate, and at the same time effectively deal with people hiding in demonstration who came to Toronto simply to commit crimes.”
If you live in Toronto or were in the city this past weekend, feel free to share your experience in the comments section!
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