G8/G20 Toronto Community Mobilization

The G8/G20 jamboree rolled up in Toronto Canada last week. Not to be outdone by the authorities in London last April, over a billion dollars has been spent on security with over 16,000 cops drafted in to support local cops in stomping on dissent. Infoshop News will be posting stories, accounts and updates here about the protests.

Counter-summit Websites

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A London based activist is over there and has been on the streets over the last four days of protests. The arrest count now exceeds 600 (still a long way off the mass arrests experienced in Copenhagen during COP15). Corporate buildings have been smashed and police cars left burning…

Like the G20 protests in London last April, activists have experienced preemptive raids of homes and convergence spaces in the days leading up to the protests and during the protests themselves. After driving by the Alternative Media Centre several times the previous night, police showed up to intimidate and search people there claiming they could not be sure that those inside the space had broken in or were squatting. Many alternative journalists have been assaulted or detained. One was arrested for filming police doing searches at a convergence space where many activists were preparing to return to their home cities. Over 200 cops raided the space arrested at least 20 people and trapping many more inside. Twitter has been buzzing with reports of severe overcrowding, repeated strip searches and denial of food and water in the massive detention centres set up imprison those arrested. A prisoner solidarity demo outside on the detention centre was violently broken up by cops firing into the crowd (video/audio).

“Don’t believe corporate media hype. The streets of Toronto were full of thousands of informed individuals who care about the lack of legitimacy of the G20, their undemocratic backroom deals, their instance on continuing to privatize the commons and socialize risk. Harper has tried to criminalize dissent by spending $1billion for this summit but lots of people demonstrated today that he has gone far beyond the pale of acceptability – his attempt to peddle his neo-liberal austerity measures to the rest of the G20 in order to pay for the banking bailout will destroy social progress it took decades to build. But dissent is what will save us and I am glad to report that lots of people in this town are not having it!”

“Demo was amazing. Huge, multicultural, labour movements, environmental movements, justice, loads of people from everywhere. Press here is a shit storm. black block are being vilified, lots of broken stuff but no looting – very canadian.”

– report from London based activist on the ground in Toronto

Photos here:

Some good videos here

Audio interview here:

You can expect some good coverage in the Guardian as it has been reported that one of their journalists was assaulted and arrested there – http://toronto.mediacoop.ca/story/guardian-journalist-assaulted-arrested/3865

Unfortunately Indymedia is pretty much a dead project in Canada with most of the regional sites now gone or no longer maintained. There is no IMC Toronto but some coverage is being posted to http://ottawa.indymedia.org/ and http://quebec.indymedia.org/en/

For example:

There is a mobalising web site set up with info about the various demos etc here  http://g20.torontomobilize.org/.

Additionally there is a social media aggregation site set up by the Toronoto Media Coop (http://toronto.mediacoop.ca/), pulling in content from youtube, flickr and twitter etc with the tag #g20report see http://2010.mediacoop.ca/.

More than seven thousand riot police, plain clothes officers and mounted patrols have been deployed in downtown Toronto in a naked violation of the democratic rights of not only the thousands of youth, trade unionists and social and environmental activists protesting the G20 summit, but of the entire Canadian population.

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Over the past 48 hours, as leaders of the G20 governments moved to coordinate a massive global austerity program directed at the international working class, police—for the first time in Toronto’s history—deployed snatch squads, tear gas and rubber and plastic bullets to disperse groups of peaceful protestors attempting to march to the fenced in perimeter of the G20 venue.

By Sunday evening, over 600 people had been arrested, many in the so-called “free speech zone,” and detained in a make-shift holding pen on the grounds of a local film studio. Reports emerged of beatings and other violent actions against peaceful demonstrators.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has spent $1.2 billion to date for the security of the summit. The decision to hold the event in the heart of Canada’s largest city, not to mention the outrageous expenses incurred, has been roundly criticized by broad layers of the Canadian population faced with ever deeper cuts to their wages, pensions and social services.

In the week before the arrival of the G20 leaders, downtown Toronto exhibited all the hallmarks of a city under a state of siege. Six kilometres of fencing, topped with concertina wire and anchored in concrete encircled the “red zone”—the actual meeting area. Police checkpoints fanned out another kilometre from the convention location. Snipers were stationed on the city’s high rise rooftops. American Navy Seals patrolled the harbour.

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Citizens in the vicinity were instructed to carry picture identification and expect curb-side interrogation. Canine units waited in the side-streets. Phalanxes of federal, provincial and municipal police stood at every corner buttressed by more mobile bicycle and horse patrols. Even truck drivers have been approached to act as “look-outs” for the police.

In addition, a thousand private security guards were deployed throughout the city’s adjacent financial and entertainment districts. Seventy-seven new closed circuit surveillance cameras monitored all movement on the streets. Water and sound cannon were moved into place. Police helicopters hovered constantly overhead. Security Service operatives swept through the hotels, and Canadian Armed Forces soldiers stood “on the ready” at “undisclosed locations”.

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Despite the fact that several peaceful protests had proceeded through downtown streets over the past week, police raiding parties on Friday night made several “preventative arrests”, entering a house without showing a warrant to drag away demonstrators asleep on the floor.

On Saturday afternoon, about ten thousand demonstrators marched from Queens Park—the grounds of the provincial legislature and the police designated “free speech zone”—in a “People First” protest organized by the Canadian Labour Congress and the Ontario Federation of Labour.

In heavy rain, the march proceeded to within four blocks of a massive fenced perimeter that has sealed off Toronto’s Convention Center area for the past week. The march, however, was stopped on Queen Street by hundreds of heavily armed police. Whilst thousands of marchers, after being confined and “kettled” by the police on the narrow street, returned to the “free speech zone,” about two thousand stayed in place and insisted on their right to march.

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During the stand-off, about 75 people—purported members of anarchist groups—broke away from the demonstrators and proceeded to spray paint graffiti and smash several dozen shop windows and bank branch ATM’s.

A police car was vandalized and set alight. A reporter noted that the gas cap for the car had been removed prior to the “Black Bloc’s” arrival. Shortly thereafter, at the corner of Bay and King—the centre of Canada’s financial district another police car was set ablaze.

It was at this time that local television stations, followed by CTV and the CBC—the country’s national news network—broke away from regular programming to breathlessly broadcast for hours on end “live” saturation coverage of events in the streets of the city. Video of the burning patrol car was then looped and re-looped into the country’s living rooms throughout the afternoon and into the night.

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As always, police provocation may well have played a role in isolated acts of vandalism. The patrol car, torched by three or four individuals, was done in full view of a whole phalanx of riot policemen who stood idly by at the intersection. “Backup! Put your batons down”, shouted the attending police captain to the riot squad. No attempt was made to arrest the perpetrators. Fire extinguishers possessed by the police were not deployed. The Toronto Fire Department, which can respond to any downtown emergency within minutes, did not arrive for over an hour as camera teams gathered from all the networks.

As the small group of anarchists proceeded onto Yonge Street, Toronto’s main shopping district, to smash more windows, reporters noted that despite the mobilization of thousands of police officers, not one could be seen on the city’s busiest thoroughfare.

Shortly thereafter, the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper—the man who has shut down parliament twice in the space of two years to circumvent opposition to his government—issued a statement. “Free speech is a principle of our democracy, but thugs that prompted violence earlier today represent in no way, shape or form the Canadian way of life”.

The incident spurred Police Chief Bill Blair to appear before the news media in the early evening to denounce violent demonstrators and to assure the population that the Integrated Security Force would bring the full force of the law down on the protest.

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Throughout the rest of the night and into Sunday, police rampaged through the ranks of the various peaceful demonstrations marching in the downtown core. In the “free speech zone” protestors staging a sit-in were arrested en masse. Young people were clubbed and kicked. A CTV producer, Farzad Fatholahzad, covering the protest was arrested. En route to the detention centre on the prisoner’s bus, he reported that detainees were bruised and bleeding. One man, suffering from concussion, was slipping in and out of consciousness. All were denied medical attention. At the University of Toronto, seventy youth sleeping on a college lawn were assaulted and arrested.

At a Novotel hotel, that had been struck earlier in the week by members of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees union, a small group of protestors gathered in solidarity after midnight. Riot police violently broke up the peaceful demonstration.

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Steve Paiken, a lead journalist for public television broadcaster TV Ontario, tweeted the following on-the-spot report: “(The Police) repeated they would arrest me if I didn’t leave. As I was escorted away… I saw two officers hold a journalist. The journalist identified himself as working for the Guardian. He talked too much and pissed the police off. Two officers held him. A third punched him in the stomach. Totally unnecessary. The man collapsed and the third officer drove his elbow into the man’s back. The demonstration on the Esplanade was peaceful. It was like an old sit-in. No one was aggressive and yet the riot squad moved in.”

On Sunday morning, police used tear gas and more plastic bullet to disperse friends of detainees who had gathered at the detention centre to greet released comrades. More violent arrests were made, including of legal advisers. Scores of detainees were released without any charge having been laid. They reported abysmal conditions in the cells. Most were denied water, toiletries and food for up to fourteen hours. A police officer referred to the previous night’s dragnet as a “catch and release” program.

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Police and the government seized on the acts of vandalism to justify this brutal crackdown. The police released a statement Saturday night declaring, “We have never tried to curtail people’s rights to lawfully protest. All you have to do is turn on the TV and see what’s happening now. Police cars are getting torched, buildings are being vandalized, people are getting beat up (sic) and the so-called ‘intimidating’ police presence is essential to restoring order. That is the reality on the ground”.

Arrests and demonstrations in Toronto continue.

The World Socialist Web Site carries no brief for those groups of anarchists who, by engaging in vandalism, arm the agents of the state with the propaganda to intensify their attacks on the democratic rights. Their actions play directly into the hands of the very forces they claim to oppose. As observers of other international summits are well aware, the police do not hesitate to infiltrate agents-provaceteurs into their ranks in order to create the sort of mayhem that allows for the unleashing of police terror against the general population.

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It would not be the first time such tactics were used to create the conditions for further curtailment of democratic rights. In 2007, at a North American leaders’ conference in Montebello, Quebec, police dressed as demonstrators were filmed carrying rocks and agitating amongst the crowd to join them in violent acts. And in 2001 at the Genoa, Italy, G8 conference, police agents were discovered to have instigated violence during protests.

The media plays its role through all-night saturation coverage, preempting virtually all network programming, highlighting the vandalous actions of some seventy-five people. In comparison, when a hundred thousand people demonstrated in Toronto against the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the largest social movement of Canadians in the country’s history, it rated a minute long sound-bite on the nation’s networks.

Images All rights reserved by Fifth_Business

Paul Franklin

Update 27 June 2010 15.35 gmt:

Almost 500 people have been arrested after a group of anarchists torched police cars and smashed storefronts close to the G20 summit in Toronto.

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The Toronto Star, citing security officials, reported that 480 people were detained after violence broke out when several hundred masked protesters broke away from a larger, peaceful demonstration yesterday.

Clean-up crews worked through the early hours to clear away debris. By sunrise, the Star reported, Queen Street West, in central Toronto, had been cleaned up except for scorched areas where police cars had been set on fire. A few shops had windows boarded up.

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Some activists complained of police intimidation as they gathered outside cells where protesters were detained. About 30 were boxed in by officers and arrested, even though they had not been violent.

Bill Blair, the city’s chief of police, admitted that officers had struggled to control the crowds, which at times numbered several thousand, yesterday.

The violence was carried out by a roving band, wearing black balaclavas, who shattered shop windows and rampaged through the centre of the city.

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Protesters set fire to at least three police cars in different parts of the city, including one in the heart of the financial district.

One protester jumped onto the roof of a car before dropping a Molotov cocktail through the smashed windscreen.

Banks, coffee shops and small stores were targets, and protesters looted at least one retailer, storming out with clothing and the arms and legs of mannequins.

“A relatively small group of people … came clearly with the intent of damaging property and perpetrating violence,” the city mayor, David Miller, told a news conference. “They’re criminals that came to Toronto deliberately to break the law.”

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Police used shields, clubs, tear gas and pepper spray to push back the protesters, who tried to head towards the security fence surrounding the summit site.

As the protests escalated, a Reuters reporter said police charged the crowds to seize individuals, and officers on horseback herded the group through the park where the protest had begun six hours earlier.

The reporter said police fired oversized plastic bullets in an effort to clear the park, although Blair said he was not aware that plastic bullets had been used.

Among those arrested was Jesse Rosenfeld, 26, a Canadian journalist who has written for the Guardian’s Comment is free site. Witnesses said he was punched by police.

images this update by iwasaround

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Roving gangs of black-clad protesters who split from the main protest march are engaging in violent hit-and-run attacks against corporate and police targets, largely evading police who remained focused on maintaining a secure perimeter around the world leaders meeting for the G20 summit.

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A sign of the apparent upper hand protesters gained by the late afternoon was stark as bright flames and black smoke spewed from two police cruisers that were set ablaze and left untended by emergency crews for perhaps 20 minutes.

If you’re angry about people dressed in black burning cars, you should probably know about the people in suits burning countries.

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The riots were largely led by a group donning black clothing, goggles, bandannas and ski masks, who some news outlets are identifying as a black bloc group — a protest tactic in which participants aim to conceal their identity in order to carry out acts of violence. They were joined by members of the activist group No One is Illegal, as well as another socialist group.

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Chants of “No justice, no peace, fuck the police!” rang through the air of a city that seemed entirely deserted, aside from protesters and riot police, who hid behind large, transparent shields.

The smashing of glass was punctuated by cheering and the low drone of vuvuzelas. TORONTO in Canada has today erupted with massive and angry protests against the G20 meeting of the global neoliberal elite.

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The first reports from Digital Journal: “What started as a large peaceful protest in downtown Toronto to rally against the G20 summit has suddenly turned violent.

“Police cars have been set ablaze, protesters hurled bricks and golf balls at windows and many Toronto venues are on lockdown.

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“A portion of the G20 summit protesters in Toronto clashed with police Saturday afternoon, forcing Toronto Police to take control of downtown Toronto.

“At King and Bay streets, a Toronto Police vehicle has been set on fire. Along Yonge Street, various stores — such as American Apparel and the Zanzibar strip club — have had their windows broken by thrown objects.

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“The security perimeter on Front Street has not been compromised, Toronto Police say. Now, black-clad protesters have dispersed across Toronto, wrecking havoc on a wide range of Toronto sites.

“The Yonge and College streets area are facing impacting damage; news report say protesters are also moving to University and College streets. Police are reportedly using tear gas right now at the University and College area, the Globe & Mail reports.

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“One Globe reporter recently liveblogged: “Huge rubber bullet shot at cluster of photographers and me, missed but close.” This is reportedly the first time in history Toronto Police have used tear gar.

“The violent protest has forced Toronto attractions to shut their doors. The Eaton Centre, the Delta Chelsea Hotel, the Sheraton Hotel and the subway system between Bloor and St. George stations have been shut down.

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Local television reports quoted police as saying that the protesters smashed windows and storefronts in the downtown area, besides burning a police car. Police also had to use tear gas to dispel protesters attempting to march towards the Toronto Convention centre, the venue of the summit.

Protesters were blocked by barricades horseback mounted policemen and policemen attired in riot gear, helmets and gas masks.

Police confirmed that the G-20 security zone has been put on lockdown mode. Popular shopping centres like the Eaton Centre, the Sick Kids Hospital and the Toronto General Hospital have also been shut down.

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As most of the thousands of protesters obeyed police directions to avoid the security perimeter, a smaller group 100 demonstrators moved in and out of confrontations along Queen Street West.

Lined four deep, officers blocked the group from the summit but largely left the property damage go unchallenged.

Counter-summit Websites

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