Monday, June 28, 2010

Police arrest more than 560 after vandalism at Toronto economic summit


Police said they have arrested more than 560 demonstrators, many of whom were hauled
away in plastic handcuffs and taken to a temporary holding center constructed for
the summit.

Despite the violence, no serious injuries were reported among police, protesters and
bystanders, Toronto Police Constable Tony Vella said Sunday.

Thousands of police in riot gear formed cordons to prevent radical
anti-globalization demonstrations from breaching the steel and concrete security
fence surrounding the Group of 20 summit site.

Security was being provided by an estimated 19,000 law enforcement officers drawn
from across Canada, and security costs were estimated at more than US$900 million.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper deplored the actions of a "few thugs" and suggested
the violence justifies the cost. Harper has been criticized for the security price

"I think it goes a long way to explaining why we have the kind of security costs
around these summits that we do," Harper said.

Toronto Police Sgt. Tim Burrows said police made at least 70 arrests in a Sunday
morning raid on a building on the campus of the University of Toronto, where they
seized a cache of "street-type weaponry" such as bricks, sticks and rocks.

"We think we put a dent in their numbers with this and with the arrests that
happened overnight," Burrows said.

The disorder and vandalism occurred just blocks from where U.S. President Barack
Obama and other world leaders were meeting and staying.

"What we saw yesterday is a bunch of thugs that pretend to have a difference of
opinion with policies and instead choose violence to express those so-called
differences of opinion," Harper's chief spokesman Dimitri Soudas said Sunday.

The streets of downtown Toronto were quiet at daylight, but protesters gathered
Sunday morning at a park near the detention center _ about 2 1/2 miles (four
kilometers) east of where the leaders are meeting.

Police adopted a more aggressive strategy Sunday by going into the crowd to make
arrests, compared to the previous day when they stood back as protesters torched
four police cars and broke store windows.

Plainclothes police at the protest near the detention center jumped out of an
unmarked van, grabbed a protester off the street, and whisked him away in the
vehicle. The protest was then quickly broken up by riot police, who set off a
warning device that created a cloud of smoke that chased protesters down the street.
Vella said it was not tear gas.

About 100 demonstrators chanted, "The whole world is watching! The whole world is

Edward Canavan said he was walking along as protesters were rioting and burning cars
on Saturday. He said he happened to see a box of oranges, which he didn't realize
belonged to officers, and grabbed one. He was arrested and detained at the temporary
jail from 2 a.m. until about noon.

"I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Canavan, as he left the
detention center, protesters cheering in the background.

Canavan said he was treated well and offered a sandwich by officers, but he added
there wasn't much room to walk around.

"There was a place to stand in a cage, about six or eight people in a cage," said
Canavan as he described the conditions.

Bridie Wyrock, 20, from Cleveland, Ohio, said she was arrested for public mischief
for sitting on a street in the financial district. Wyrock, held for 19 hours before
being released, said there wasn't enough toilets and said people were resisting
detention, but said police treated most people with respect.

"They put us in cages, blocked off on all three sides," Wyrock said. "It was cold
and dirty."

Burrows said many of those involved in the violent protests were Canadian. He added
that authorities had known of their plans for some time.

Thousands of police headed to Toronto to reinforce security there after the smaller
Group of Eight summit ended Saturday in Huntsville, Ontario, about 140 miles (225
kilometers) away.

Saturday's protests began with a peaceful march, sponsored by labor unions, that was
the largest demonstration planned during the summit weekend. Its organizers had
hoped to draw a crowd of 10,000, but only about half that number turned out on a
rainy day.

The black-clad demonstrators broke off from the larger crowd of peaceful protesters
and began torching police cars and smashing shop windows.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said the goal of the militant protesters was to draw
police away from the security perimeter of the summit so that fellow protesters
could attempt to disrupt the meeting.

Some police officers were struck by rocks and bottles and assaulted, but none was
injured badly enough to stop working, Blair said.

Previous global summit protests have turned violent. In 1999, 50,000 protesters shut
down World Trade Organization sessions in Seattle as police fired tear gas and
rubber bullets. There were some 600 arrests and $3 million in property damage. One
man died after clashes with police at a G-20 meeting held in London in April 2009.

At the September G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, police fired canisters of pepper spray
and smoke and rubber bullets at marchers.

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