Toronto in lockdown as G20 protesters clash with police
Canadian government accused of barring non-mainstream reporters from summit
UPDATE: Seventy-five people were arrested in downtown Toronto Saturday after G20 protests turned violent, and police confirmed they used bean bag guns, pepper spray and tear gas in skirmishes with protesters.
The protests came as the leaders of the world’s largest economies gathered to discuss the economic crisis that swept the world over the past two years.
Toronto police praised the vast majority of protesters, who marched peacefully through the city core to draw attention to issues such as environmental degradation, poverty and human rights.
But some activists were angered at the “pre-arrests” of four G20 protest organizers by Toronto police in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday.
Protest organizer Niki Thorne said in a statement emailed to the press that 20 police officers raided the house she was sharing with other protest leaders and arrested four people.
“Police forcibly detained and cuffed a number of people, and refused to allow those in the house to call for legal advice. Without showing warrants, asking consent, or giving notice, police did an illegal cursory search of some of the people on the premises as well as the house itself,” Thorne said.
According to the Globe and Mail, the four people were charged with conspiracy to commit mischief.
“Police allege the group was planning to break off from peaceful protest and launch violent attacks against police,” the newspaper stated.
ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS BELOW
TORONTO — Parts of Toronto’s downtown core were in chaos Saturday evening as a G20 protest turned violent, with police shutting down public transit into the city and protesters setting fire to police cars.
Police told media that a small group of “Black bloc” demonstrators broke off from a protest of 10,000 people and began smashing storefront windows along the city’s trendy Queen Street. Some scuffles between protesters and police were reported, but there were no reports of mass arrests as of Saturday evening.
The CBC News Network reported that protesters smashed in the windows of an American Apparel outlet, pulled out the mannequins and spread feces on the floor. The storefronts of McDonald’s and Starbucks locations were also damaged, as were numerous bank branches.
At least two police cars were set on fire in the city’s financial district, and police shut down public transit in the city core, as well as a large downtown shopping complex.
About 200 people were trapped inside the Eaton Centre shopping complex when it was shut down. One of them told Agence France-Presse that mall staff were handing out water to the trapped.
REPORTERS FROM NON-MAINSTREAM MEDIA ‘BARRED FROM CANADA’
Numerous reports suggest that Canada’s border guards have been refusing entry to reporters covering the G8 and G20 summits for non-mainstream news sources.
Two reporters from Chicago Indymedia were reportedly accused of being protesters and denied entry. Reporters from WeAreChange were detained for at least four hours by border officials before being denied entry. A reporter from the InfoWars news site was also denied entry. Two activists from CodePink were also barred from entering Canada.
Activists have accused Canadian officials of using heavy-handed tactics in preparation for protests at the G8 and G20 summits. On Friday, it emerged that the government of the province of Ontario had secretly changed a law to allow police to arrest anyone near the G20 meeting who doesn’t identify themselves.
The change to the law wasn’t made public until 31-year-old Dave Vasey was arrested under the new powers. Vasey was kept for hours in a caged area police set up to hold arrested protesters. he told the Toronto Star Saturday that he plans to challenge the law as early as Monday.
Vasey’s lawyer, Howard Morton, said the law violates Canada’s constitution, which “guarantees people freedom of assembly [and] the freedom of communication.”
This video, of a confrontation between police and a demonstrator during a protest on Friday, was posted to the Web by NOW Magazine.