TORONTO, Ont. – Torontonians will not soon forget all that unfolded, Saturday, after what began as a peaceful protest at Queen’s Park turned into an all-out war zone on city streets.
- Video: First police cruiser on fire
- Video: Police in riot gear marching during protest
- Listen: Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair
- Submit your question or comment now and 680News staff will answer them, live.
- Read the Q&A session with Peter Coleman, president and CEO of National Citizens Coalition
- Premier’s statement on G20 violence
- Full coverage: 680News G8/G20 page
Police said they have now arrested about 562 people since June 18 in G20-related incidents — 200 of the arrests occurred on Sunday.
The violent groups of protesters broke away from a massive anti-G20 demonstration earlier in the day, which began at Queen’s Park and worked its way through the downtown core.
These demonstrators torched at least four police vehicles, in addition to smashing windows of several shops and banks just blocks from the site of the G20 summit.
There was much vandalism at College Park, at Yonge and College Streets, as protesters used interlocking blocks from the sidewalks to smash in windows of several businesses, including a Winners, Tim Hortons and Starbucks.
Tim Hortons suffered the worst damage as protesters went inside and ransacked the place. It looked like they were picking up chairs and smashing them around.
Jennifer told 680News about the chaos she witnessed.
“They’ve been going around and they’re just destroying everything in their path. I live next to the police station and I was watching the police gear up and they were just all in riot gear and there are hundreds of them and they’re just telling us not to touch anything, not to go near anything. It’s pretty scary, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Police also had to deal with a group of protesters that were trying to stage a sit-in at Queen’s Park. A line of riot police officers instructed the demonstrators to move back 30 meters, threatening to arrest those that didn’t.
Immediately after they made that announcement, the police moved forward about 15 metres and fired a rifle with what appeared to have a paintball reservoir at the top down toward the pavement.
Once it hit the pavement it emitted a white dust into the air, which 680News reporter Kevin Misener said burnt his throat.
The LRad was also used; but, only to advice protesters to move back north towards Queen’s Park. The police were able to move the crowd back.
Meantime, at Bay and Adelaide streets, a line of about 40 riot police officers stood on guard with their shields and gas masks on. A second line of reinforcement stood behind them. Protesters stood 15 feet away and chanted, “Whose street? Our street!”
Toronto police Const. Wendy Drummond said the protesters have turned ugly.
“These people have no regard for anybody’s safety, we’ve got several police vehicles and property damaged, store fronts damaged, city property damaged and our officers are going to maintain their professionalism in amongst being provoked by these people, who will continue to have our front line balanced and measured in response to what we’re facing,” Drummond said.
The thousands of different activists, who took part in the largest G20 protest, were rallying against not only the G8 and G20 but also poverty, pollution and human rights. The march was so large that many people near the end found themselves in a human traffic jam.
Some chose not to join the protest but to stay at Queen’s Park and enjoy the festive atmosphere until the marchers returned.
At the corner of University Avenue and Queen Street a young man stripped to his underwear and stood at the top of the war monument shouting at the crowd. Many protesters stopped to take pictures of the man but some found it unacceptable that no one had offered to help the man down.
“It’s unacceptable. People should walk away. I go and ask people to stop taking pictures but they just laugh in my face. Does anyone here have any compassion? I mean sure he’s enjoying it. He’s almost fallen a few times,” one protester told 680News.
As some of the protest crowd made their way around downtown, military helicopters circled overhead.
At around 7 p.m. police moved aggressively on several protesters who made their way back to Queen’s Park, occupying the south lawn. Police banged their batons against their shields, yelling “move.”
Every so often the police line would open up and the mounted unit would arrest several protesters.
Police were able to force some of the demonstrators up towards Bloor Street, which is where officers backed off.
Many of the protesters continued to march along Bloor Street, stopping traffic in their wake.
They got to Yonge Street and went south.
People in bars and drivers on Yonge Street were stunned, many taking pictures.
For the most part it was a peaceful march, aside from two protesters who smashed out two store-front windows.
Several protesters then sat down in the middle of King Street in front of the Bank of Montreal building; however, they dispersed once police fired pepper bullets into the air.
Some of the demonstrators went to Union Station, not far from the Royal York Hotel and once the rain came several scattered to the Esplanade where many were taken into police custody.