2010 G-20 Toronto summit protests

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2010 G-20 Toronto summit riots
G-20 Toronto June 2010 (27).jpg
Riot control emerge as a police car burns in the background in Toronto on 26 June
Date June 18–28, 2010
Location Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Methods Black bloc, rally, demonstration
Casualties
Injuries 3 confirmed by Toronto EMS, plus an unknown number of injuries during arrests. On the police side, a number of officers were attacked including setting fire to a police car while officers were still inside. A total of 75 police officers received injuries during the G20.

The 2010 G-20 Toronto summit protests began one week ahead of the summit of the leaders of the G-20 on 26–27 June in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The protests were for various causes, including poverty and anti-capitalism. Protests mainly consisted of peaceful demonstrations and rallies but also took form of a riot as a group of protesters using black bloc tactics caused vandalism to several businesses in Downtown Toronto. More than 20,000 police, military, and security personnel were involved in policing the protests, which at its largest numbered 10,000 protestors.[1][2] While there were no deaths, 75 officers were injured and only three other reported injuries, all of which were inflicted upon protesters by the police, at least 40 shops were vandalised, constituting at least C$750,000 worth of damage.[3] Over 1000 arrests were made, making it the largest mass arrest in Canadian history.[4] In the aftermath of the protests, the Toronto Police Service and the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) of the G-20 Toronto summit were heavily criticized for brutality during the arrests and eventually went under public scrutiny by media and human rights activists.

Preliminary events[edit]

Early opposition[edit]

A Royal Bank of Canada branch in Ottawa was firebombed just before dawn on May 18, 2010.[5] The attackers posted video on YouTube showing a large fireball igniting inside the bank. The video then listed the manifesto of a previously unknown group calling itself the FFFC. The message stated that the attack against the bank was because of the growing suffering of Vancouver's poor in the shadow of RBC's major sponsorship of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and Paralympics in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia and claimed these events were held "on stolen indigenous land."[6] In addition to social issues and aboriginal land claims, the video claimed the actions were sparked by environmental and deforestation related concerns surrounding the Alberta tar sands projects in "Kanada's" prairies, in which the video claims RBC is substantially involved and which G8/G20 decisions furthered.[7] The attackers also stated their intention to be present during the G8 and G20 summits the following month.[8] The projected recurrence of such acts of violence and the escalating rhetoric of anti-summit protest plans caused the G8/G20 Integrated Security Unit (ISU) to increase its security measures.[9][10] The attacks were quickly and widely criticized by the media, politicians, and other protest groups[11][12] Three suspects were arrested on June 19, 2010; with one, Roger Clement, being convicted in December 2010 while charges against the other two were stayed for lack of evidence. Clement, a 58-year-old retired federal government employee, formerly working for the Canadian International Development Agency, eventually received a 3½ year prison sentence, that included 6−months for vandalism of another RBC branch in February 2010.[13]

Initial estimates of the damage, immediately following the attack, set the price-tag at around $300,000 and projected that the bank would be closed for several weeks. At the time of Clement's trial, reports stated that the branch was closed for months with total costs of $1,600,000.[7][8][14]

An individual was arrested for vandalism on May 28, after being caught spray-painting anti–G-20 slogans on windows and automated teller machines in Downtown Toronto.[15] Two individuals were arrested in London, Ontario after attaching posters to public property encouraging disruption of the G-20 summit and canvassing protests.[16]

Key groups which organized early in opposition to the summit included Canadian Labour Congress, Council of Canadians, Greenpeace, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Ontario Federation of Labour, Oxfam and the Toronto Community Mobilization Network.[17]

Week prior to summit[edit]

An early demonstration on Yonge Street on June 24 demanding respect of First Nations treaty rights

A small rally was conducted on June 17 in the Financial District by Oxfam Canada, urging Canada to end fossil fuel subsidization and take action on world poverty. The rally also spoofed the summit's high security cost.[18]

An anti-poverty protest occurred on June 21, causing traffic congestion.[19] About 100 protesters marched from Allan Gardens on Sherbourne Street and continued on Yonge Street, Dundas Street, and Isabella Street. Police officers on bicycles and military helicopters patrolled the protest; one arrest was made.[19] A few protesters also attempted to occupy an Esso gas station, claiming corporations like Esso "have caused irreparable damage all over the world."[20] Other protester concerns were the Arab–Israeli conflict, capitalism, and the G8 and G-20 summits.[19] The protest was led by a Guelph-based group called Sense of Security, an anti-poverty group that was also supported by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.[20]

The following day, about 200 people from Toronto's gay community marched through downtown attempting to raise awareness on homosexual rights.[21] Protesters chanted, "We're queer, we're fabulous, we're against the G-20."[22] The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) labelled the protests as "peaceful" overall.[23]

The first sizable G-20 protest, of about 1000 people, took place on June 24 with First Nations groups and supporters from across Canada demanding respect for treaty rights from the government.[24] Demonstrations moved from Queen's Park to the Toronto Eaton Centre along University Avenue and Queen Street West. Concerns of protesters were Canada's failure to sign the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the fact that no aboriginal chiefs were invited to the summits.[25]

Also on June 24, activist Jaggi Singh, spokesperson for the group No One Is Illegal, suggested in a news conference that some protesters intended to attempt to breach the security fence in the coming days.[26]

A larger protest was scheduled for June 25 in Toronto, the day the 36th G8 summit began in Huntsville, Ontario.[27] Protesters attempted to enter the security zone, but were later forced to return by police officers. By evening, protesters set up a tent city at Allan Gardens and stayed overnight to resume protests the following day, the opening of the G-20 summit.[28]

During the summit[edit]

June 26: Riots and vandalism[edit]

A rioter on top of a Toronto Police Service cruiser in flames

As the G-20 leaders arrived in Toronto after the 36th G8 summit in Huntsville, Ontario wrapped up, a large group comprising as many as 10,000 people protested downtown during the afternoon of June 26.[29] At the protest, Jeff Atkinson, spokesperson for the Canadian Labour Congress, said, "We don't want G20 countries to cut stimulus spending until jobs recover." Greenpeace International director Kumi Naidoo reasoned that "if G-20 governments could spend billions of dollars to rescue banks in trouble, why not find money to help unemployed workers for the environment and for social causes." Sid Ryan of the Ontario Federation of Labour said in a speech, "It wasn't the workers of the world that caused the financial crisis. We don't want to see a transfer of wealth from the public sector to the private sector."[30]

According to eyewitness accounts, about 200 marchers broke away from the protest route on Queen Street and headed south on Bay Street towards the convention centre, through Financial District. The media would describe the break-off as led by the black bloc, with demonstrators covering their bodies and faces in black clothes. Individuals using the same black bloc tactics have been suspected of being responsible for confrontations in other international summit protests.[31] Protesters dispersed to damage buildings and vehicles.[32] The intent as interpreted by some media was to distract police forces from the security zone so that other protesters could break in, but police maintained their blockades, protecting the fence.[33] Vandals smashed the windows of various office buildings and stores along Yonge Street, Queen Street West and College Street using hammers, flag poles, umbrellas, chunks of pavement and mailboxes.[34] Conflicts also erupted between purported anarchists and journalists who were recording property destruction.[35] After a few hours, many black bloc demonstrators changed into civilian clothes and dissolved into the larger crowd as security forces began to increase in presence. Police later maintained that some protest organizers were complicit in providing cover for the vandals.[36]

This Starbucks branch was one of many shops to have damaged exteriors from the riots

The first property reportedly damaged was a Nike clothes store. Toronto Police Headquarters was also damaged.[37] Media vehicles of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and CTV Television Network were damaged and four Toronto Police Service cruisers were smashed and set ablaze in various locations.[38] American corporations, such as Starbucks, appeared to be the targets of vandalism.[34] Other targets were Foot Locker, Sears Canada, McDonald's Canada, Tim Hortons, Urban Outfitters, Pizza Pizza, Subway, Swiss Chalet, and the Zanzibar Tavern, a local strip club whose owner had invited leaders to try G-strings instead of the G-20 summit.[34][39][40][41] An American Apparel store was damaged; the mannequins on display were taken out and used to further damage nearby stores.[34] Branches of Scotiabank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), and the Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) were also damaged. Toronto Police Headquarters, Toronto Eaton Centre, Sheraton Centre, Delta Chelsea and some buildings in Yonge-Dundas Square were put in lockdown mode, and three people were confirmed by the Toronto EMS to be injured during the protests.[42] Hospitals along University Avenue, which includes Mount Sinai, Toronto General, Princess Margaret, and The Hospital for Sick Children, were put into lockdown mode by police.[43] Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) bus and streetcar routes were halted in Downtown, as well as subway service between Bloor-Yonge and St. George stations.[44] GO Transit was requested by the ISU to reroute trains away from Union Station, and used Danforth and Exhibition stations as the termini for westbound and eastbound trains respectively,[45] but free shuttle bus service was made available to passengers from those stations. The TTC also provided free shuttle bus services.[46] The escalating violence caused Dutch violinist André Rieu to cancel his concert at the Air Canada Centre at the last minute.[47]

Sound cannons were not used during the weekend, but tear gas was used for the first time in the history of Toronto,[48] being deployed in a few locations by muzzle blasts. Rubber bullets and pepper spray were also used against many protesters.[49][50] At the end of the day, Toronto Police Service chief Bill Blair announced that 130 people had been arrested.[51] Several media personnel, including a Canadian reporter for The Guardian, a CTV producer, and two photographers for the National Post, were also arrested.[52][53][54]

Condemnations of the violence were made by Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty and Toronto Mayor David Miller.[55] In a press conference, Miller said, "All Torontonians should be outraged. They’re criminals who came to Toronto deliberately to break the law. They are not welcome in this city."[34][48] Referring to damage caused by black bloc protesters downtown, he claimed that calling the attackers protesters was "not fair to the people who came to [legally] protest,"[34] and that they were in fact "criminals."[34] In a statement, Dimitri Soudas, spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, proclaimed, "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."[56]

June 27: Police brutality protests[edit]

People boxed in by riot police at Queen and Spadina

Approximately 480 arrestees were taken to the Eastern Avenue temporary holding centre during the previous day's protests; police initially gave numbers ranging from 32 to 130. While those with minor charges or dropped charges were released, those with serious charges were set to appear in a courthouse located on Finch Avenue and Weston Road in North York.[57][58]

After closed services throughout the night, the following morning saw the resumption of regular TTC and GO Transit services, while G-20 leaders began formal discussions at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Lockdowns at University Avenue hospitals and the Toronto Eaton Centre were also lifted.[59] Additional officers from the Ontario Provincial Police were deployed, doubling the total number of officers to 20,000.[60]

Four arrests were made during the twilight of June 27 after two security guards witnessed men emerging from a manhole on Queen Street West. The manholes were later welded shut.[61]

About 100 additional arrests were made during a morning raid by Toronto Police Service at the University of Toronto. Those arrested were said to be in possession of black clothing and "weapons of opportunity" such as bricks and sharpened stakes.[62]

During the mid-morning, protesters marched from Jimmie Simpson Park on Queen Street East to the front of the Eastern Avenue temporary detention centre, where a "jail solidarity" bike rally and sit-in consisting of about 150 people occurred during the afternoon, with demonstrators urging the release of those arrested the previous day.[63] Following several arrests during the rally, protesters began a sit-in interrupted by small muzzles of pepper spray and rubber bullets fired by police.[64][65] At least 224 arrests occurred by evening.[66]

Another large group assembled at the intersection of Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue, presumably to conduct a protest, but were immediately surrounded by heavily armed police forces.[67] Numerous bystanders and media personnel were also in the crowd. Several arrests were made, including several members of the media and another CTV cameraman who was briefly held and then released; police later claimed that they had found weapons at the scene, and that they suspected the presence of more black bloc protesters within the crowd.[66][68][69] The blockade caused traffic diversions and the stoppage of streetcar service along Spadina Avenue. After several hours of detainment in record-breaking heavy rain, police released the remainder of the crowd during the night.[citation needed]

Aftermath[edit]

Post-summit protests[edit]

A total of 1118 people were arrested in relation to the G-20 summit protests,[4] the largest mass arrests in Canadian history,[70] while nearly 800 of them were released without charge.[71] The remaining 231 people remained with charges before the court while 58 of them have had their charges withdrawn or stayed.[72] Smaller-scale, non-violent protests took place the following day, June 28, during the afternoon and evening. Nearly 1000 protesters marched to Toronto City Hall and Queen's Park to protest the treatment of arrested individuals at the Eastern Avenue holding centre and demanded the release of individuals still being detained, although police had earlier released several arrested on minor charges.[73] Large numbers of Toronto Police Service officers continued to patrol the demonstrations.[74] On June 29, a group of gay activists gathered outside a community centre where Toronto Police Service chief Bill Blair was scheduled to speak to demand his resignation for the treatment of women and homophobia within the detention centre.[75]

Criticism of policing[edit]

On December 7, 2010, Andre Marin, Ontario Ombudsman, issued a report called Caught in the Act, an investigation into the legality of the Ontario Public Works Protection Act, and, more specifically Regulation 233/10, in Marin's words, "...known as the secret security regulation, a little known and widely misunderstood legal measure that was supposed to help the police keep the peace, but in my view wound up contributing to massive violations of civil rights."[76]

Police were allowed to arrest anyone within five metres of the fence who would neither leave nor identify himself.

A group of lawyers requested court injunctions against the Toronto Police Service from using newly purchased Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD), also known as sound cannons, during protests.[77] Sound cannons have been used in previous summit protests and have the ability to produce sound at ear-piercing volumes, potentially causing hearing impairment. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice later ruled that officers can use sound cannons, with a few restrictions.[78]

The Toronto Star reported that the Executive Council of Ontario had implemented a regulation under the provincial Public Works Protection Act on June 2 granting the ISU sweeping powers of arrest within a specific boundary during the summit;[79] the rule was said to designate the security fence as a public works and, as such, allow any police officer or guard to arrest any individual failing or refusing to provide identification within five metres of the security zone. The regulation was requested by Toronto Police Service chief Bill Blair and debate in the legislature was not required. Orders in Council such as this one are announced in the Ontario Gazette, but the next issue of that publication was to be published after the order expired on June 28, a week after the summit ended. The new law came to light after a York University graduate student, who claimed to have been simply "exploring" the security zone but who did not provide identification when confronted by police, was arrested on June 24 under the regulation.[80] He later vowed to file a lawsuit against the law once the summit ended.[81] The Cabinet later confirmed that the new laws were not "special powers" and that those who were believed to have been arrested under the Public Works and Protection Act were in fact arrested under the Criminal Code of Canada.[82] The police chief later admitted that, despite media coverage, no such five-metre rule ever existed in the law.[83]

Human rights investigations[edit]

Individuals arrested during the protests who claimed to be bystanders not taking part in protests condemned the treatment they received from police at the Eastern Avenue holding centre.[84] According to testimonials given to the Toronto Star and La Presse by a few arrestees, including university students, journalists, street medics, teachers, tourists, photographers, and a former mayoral candidate, "[individual] rights were violated" and "police brutality [was present]." The detention centre was described as "cold" with "barely any food or water" and "no place in the cages to even sit," and "tantamount to torture." Other allegations included harassment, lack of medical care, verbal abuse, and strip searches of females by male officers.[85][86][87] At one point, a plainclothes officer reportedly told a detainee that the federal government had declared martial law.[88] Blair defended the conditions in the temporary detention centre, citing the fact that every room in the centre was under video surveillance, and that to the best of the officers' abilities, occupants were read their rights.[89][90] However, a Toronto Star commentator editorialized that "some of the elements of classic authoritarian detention were there, albeit in embryonic forms."[88]

Amnesty International called for an official investigation into the police tactics used during the protests. The organization alleged that police violated civil liberties and used police brutality.[91] The Canadian Civil Liberties Association decried the arrests and alleged that they occurred without "reasonable grounds to believe that everyone they detained had committed a crime."[92]

Toronto Police Service held press conferences to speak out against inappropriate actions of protesters, including displaying items alleged to have been seized from protesters. However, when confronted, Chief Blair admitted that some of the items were unrelated to the G-20 protests.[93]

Police officers were also reported to attack detained journalists, while forcing other journalists to leave the scene of the protests.[94]

Adam Nobody[edit]

Protestor Adam Nobody, 27, was arrested in Queen's Park on 26 June. An amateur video uploaded to YouTube[95] showed at least a dozen officers surrounding and beating Nobody, who was not armed and did not appear to resist. He suffered a broken nose and cheekbone, and was charged with assaulting police. These charges were eventually dropped, and a Special Investigations Unit investigation was opened into the incident. This investigation was closed without any charges laid, because the SIU was unable to identify the officers. They had covered their identification badges, police witnesses all claimed to be unable to identify them, and the arresting officer had written an invalid ID number on Nobody's arrest record.

Police chief Bill Blair insisted that a "forensic examination" had proven the video was "tampered with," removing proof that Nobody was an armed, violent criminal, but soon retracted this statement admitting he had no evidence to support it. Blair's claims led to increased attention to the case, new witnesses coming forward, and a second video corroborating the first. On 30 November the SIU re-opened its investigation, obtained the co-operation of a police officer who witnessed the incident, and laid charges against Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani. The SIU has the names of other officers involved but has not yet laid charges against them.[96][97][98][99][100][101][102]

Blair, PM Stephen Harper and the Toronto Police have been harshly criticized over the incident, with many commentators calling for Blair to resign.[103][104][105]

Investigation and charges against police[edit]

In 2013, Andalib-Goortani was convicted of assault with a weapon for his role in Nobody's beating.[106]

In 2014, Toronto Police Superintendent Mark Fenton, has been charged with unlawful arrest and discreditable conduct in relations to the kettling incident and facing a disciplinary hearing.[107] Fenton was major incident commander (under the Major Incident Command Centre) during the summit.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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