As G-8 leaders wrapped up their summit in Huntsville, Ontario, and prepared to travel south to Toronto for the full G-20 summit, the city witnessed some of the most violent protests in its history.
The protest began around 1:00 p.m. Eastern, with a huge rally organized by several labor unions, Oxfam and a few other large organizations. They marched peacefully, even quite jovially, through their intended route. To be sure, they were loud as they chanted their messages, which were quite relevant to the G20 agenda -- labor, poverty, women's issues. But they marched along, many with their kids.
Black Bloc Tactics
As that rally was ending, several groups used "Black Bloc" tactics. Clad in black and with their faces covered by scarves, they confronted police and became violent. They set at least one police car on fire, although some reports put the number at three. They destroyed property, mostly cars and storefronts of several large corporations and banks, including Starbucks (SBUX), Tim Hortons, Bell and TD Bank. They smashed the windows of Toronto Police Headquarters.
Even though the police were in full force and riot gear, they mostly allowed the vandals to destroy property and didn't fully confront the rioters as long as they remained a few blocks away from the security fence, although it was reported that some did manage to reach the fence.
"It was intense," said a security guard at one of the downtown buildings who didn't want to be named. "They were smashing the windows across the street, and then someone pointed this way. I wasn't sure what to do. There was no police. I planned to run to the basement, but luckily they didn't come." Other workers in some of the buildings, however, weren't as lucky.
Still, most of the protesters were peaceful. In one standoff with police, a group of pink-clad people were dancing and chanting, "Whose streets? Our streets," in reference to Toronto turning downtown into an armed fortress where police were quietly given extra powers and residents can't walk freely.
The G-20 summit is drawing to a close as Canada's most populous city shakes off the riot damage around it. More than 500 protesters were arrested, the Associated Press reported. One of the biggest question that will remain when this is over is whether any city should or would go through this again.
G-20 Summit: Toronto Welcomes Leaders With Violent Protests