Archive for June, 2010

What happened at the G20 Allan Gardens protest in Toronto

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Friday’s rally was by far the largest protest ahead of Saturday’s People First rally at Queen’s Park, and it’s where the estimated 3,000 protesters and police tested their mettle to some degree.

Before it began, the demonstrators gathered at Allan Gardens, a place usually frequented by homeless people, but outnumbered Friday afternoon by bands like Toronto’s Rhythms of Resistance, Samba Elegua and others who tuned up and got the crowd boogieing. Various people carrying banners ranted through their megaphones about the injustices in Iran, etc.

John Clarke of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty stood on the back of a pickup and issued his battle cry, inciting protesters at one point in his speech to violence. When he was done, the march began with protesters heading slowly westward to Carleton Street towards where organizers refused to say. The mood of the loud crowd was cheerful with various groups playing music and chanting slogans, “Our streets, our streets.”

As demonstrators approached Carleton and Yonge things started to escalate. One officer was overheard ordering her bike unit members to put on their shield helmets.

“Down with the helmets,” anti-G20 protesters responded repeatedly.

By the time they reached the College Park Shops, which houses one of the criminal courthouses, a tussle broke out between a young man and police, and the reaction from the crowd turned loud and angry.

“Justice,” protesters yelled. “We want justice.”

A group of officers farther west of the scene told colleagues to leave their bikes, so they parked them with their kickstands and ran over to help out.

“Let him go,” protesters yelled.

The number of police grew visibly as the march passed in front of Toronto police headquarters on College. Many demonstrators by the edges kept egging the police Bike Units and the riot police, the Emergency Response Team and the Mounted Unit all made their debuts on University Avenue by Bay Street. They made their presence known with their intimidating gear and size.

It appeared a showdown would occur at University and Elm when police physically pushed onlookers and reporters back away from the protesters and forced them to move about 50 metres away. The doors to many buildings along the route were locked and spectators watched from their perches.

It got unusually quiet and a man’s voice was heard over one officer’s walkie talkie, saying that they were “ready for the transition.”

“Let us go,” the crowd kept chanting. “Let us march.”

A few minutes passed, minutes that felt much longer by the silence and the heat. But amazingly both sides showed restraint and no rioting happened. The special units quickly left, pounding on their shields as they marched away.

You could feel the mood of the crowd relax, and the protesters continued on with their march but they were forced to do a U-turn away from the U.S. Consulate and away from the fence. They headed back north on a smaller back street parallel to University where an elderly man told an officer that it was ruining his evening church service. They eventually returned to University and College and headed back to Allan Gardens. Queen’s I Want to Break Free played over a car’s loudspeakers and competed for air space with Samba Elegua’s deafening drumming.

More jamming continued when the protest ended back where it began in between chants of “No justice. No police. F*ck the police…. Our Streets. Our Streets.”

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Category Photojournalism, journalism / Tags: Tags: , , /

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