Well before the G-20 Toronto summit brought together members from the 20 major economies including the European Union to discuss the global financial system and world economy, a blueprint to turn a part of downtown Toronto into a secured militarized fortress was in place. The plan was to transform the downtown core into a barricaded hot spot lined with razor-wire fences, officers of the peace in riot gear and helicopters representing the watchful eye. Canadians wondered if the security budget was necessary. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to pump our tax dollars into the economy rather than spend it on a conference to discuss the economy?
The scene was reminiscent of an urban army base in an authoritarian country found in a Hollywood production. Ironically the security zone shared more than just the image. Unbeknownst to a majority of Torontonians was the implementation of a provincial bill that was not debated in the legislature and passed surreptitiously. “Regulation 233/10 under the Public Works Protection Act gave those protecting the peace in the area described the power to demanded identification, search and arrest anyone who they deemed suspicious” (Service Ontario e-Laws 1990 and 2010). Civil rights and freedoms were stripped away at the discretion of individuals who were given an open-ended definition on how to keep the peace.
On June 26th as expected a copious amount of protestors estimated between 4,000 to 8,000 lined the streets of Queen, Yonge and College (Toronto Sun 2010). However, the peaceful beginnings of these protests quickly turned into a violent and anarchic affair. Among the peaceful protestors were a group of demonstrators masked in black. “The media described this renegade group as the black bloc. Their tactics to vandalize the streets of Toronto began the obstruction of the peaceful protest” (Chung and McLean 2010). Hospitals, shops and office buildings in the downtown core went into lockdown mode. The Toronto Transit Commission diverted all routes out of the core and stopped subway service in the security zone. “The police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and detainment of those they perceived to be as vandals” (Doolittle and Shephard 2010). In their response the officers patrolling the protests began to target all; protestors, vandals and innocent bystanders.
On the following day the protests continued, however, an additional message existed: “release those who were arrested the previous day.” Police did not wait for the acts of violence and vandalism to start, instead they made their presence felt. First, through a morning raid at the University of Toronto. The Toronto Police arrested those who were said to be in possession of black clothing and weapons such as bricks as well as sharpened stakes (Lu and Popplewell 2010). Next officers approached a protest at the intersection of Queen West and Spadina. The group was immediately surrounded by heavily armed police forces. The group of protestors reportedly included “innocent bystanders, peaceful demonstrators and journalists” (Doolittle and Shephard 2010). Individuals who were caught behind the human wall of police had no means of escape. The tactic used is known as ‘Kettling’ and it resulted in about 50 members of the group being arrested, with the rest left trapped in the rain (Poisson 2010). Over the course of the weekend there was an estimated 900 summit related arrests which was the largest mass arrest in Canadian history (Hui and Mahoney 2010).
The images that defined the protests include police brutality on the grassy yard at Queens Park, police cruisers burning on Queen West and Bay, and lastly the realization that the security zone had turned into what many have described as a police state. None of the players involved in this embarrassing ordeal emerged unscathed. The peaceful protesters message was lost because the violent black-clad individuals decided to spread chaos. The police failed to contain the aforementioned vandals and resorted to targeting anyone caught in the bubble of the zone. Finally, the various levels of government who introduced questionable laws and massive overspending in security in hopes to secure peace ultimately failed. The events that took place during these two days brought into question the abuse of police power, the Ontario Public Works Protection Act and the massive violation of civil rights.
Chung, Andrew and Jesse McLean. 2010. “The Violent Protestors Who Never Were.” The Toronto Star, June 27. Online. Retrieved October 21, 2012 (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/829559–the-violent-protesters-who-never-were)
Doolittle, Robyn and Michelle Shephard. 2010. “Police Tactics: Too Tough or Too Soft.”The Toronto Star, June 27. Online. Retrieved October 21, 2012 (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/829581–police-tactics-too-tough-or-too-soft)
Hui, Ann and Jill Mahoney. 2010. “G20-Related Mass Arrests Unique in Canadian History.” The Globe and Mail, August 23. Online. Retrieved October 21, 2012 (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/g20-related-mass-arrests-unique-in-canadian-history/article4323163/)
Lu, Vanessa and Brett Popplewell. 2010. “Student Union Faces Questions About Hosting Protestors.” The Toronto Star, June 27. Online. Retrieved October 21, 2012 (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/829313–student-union-faces-questions-about-hosting-protesters)
“Ontario Regulation 233/10.” 2010. Service Ontario e-Laws. Retrieved October 16, 2012 (http://www.elaws.gov.on.ca/html/source/regs/english/2010/elaws_src_regs_r10233_e.htm)
Poisson, Jayme. 2010.“’Kettling’ Police Tactic Controversial Everywhere It Was Used.” The Toronto Star, June 29. Online. Retrieved October 21, 2012 (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/829891—kettling-police-tactic-controversial-everywhere-it-was-used)
“Public Works Protection Act.” 1990. Service Ontario e-Laws. Retrieved October 16, 2012 (http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english elaws_statutes_90p55_e.htm )
Toronto Sun Staff. 2010 “Anarchists Leave Trail of Destruction.” Toronto Sun, June 26. Online. Retrieved October 21, 2012 (http://www.torontosun.com/news/g20/2010/06/26/14526566.html)