Protest in Toronto fizzles after violent clash
By OLIVER MOORE
Globe and Mail Update
Police briefly cleared Bay Street in
downtown Toronto on Tuesday
morning following a burst of violence at a protest march
spearheaded by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).
A witness at First Canadian Place said a demonstrator was clubbed
down by riot police following an attempt to attack them with a
protest sign. Police Constable Debbie Abbott at Metro Toronto
Police Service headquarters said that she had heard a report of a
protester being "seriously injured," but that she could not specify the
extent of the injuries. She added that an ambulance was on the way
to the scene.
Unable to put a definite figure on the number of arrested, Constable
Abbott said that at least 12 have been picked up. She added that 52
Division was unable to process any more detainees and that
prisoners were being shunted to 51 and 14 Divisions.
Police reportedly seized parts for Molotov cocktails, pieces of wood
spiked with metal wing nuts and a large bag of gas masks.
There has been "quite a number of arrests," OCAP spokesman John
Clarke told globeandmail.com. "Our legal team doesn't have
[specific] numbers because they seem to be holding people in limbo
before processing them."
Mr. Clarke, who was not at the scene because of bail conditions
that restrict his ability to protest, said that many of the arrests
sounded "preventative," rather than reactive.
A mass of demonstrators marched south on Bay Street and turned
west on King. A smaller group then turned back and headed north
on Bay. Reports indicate the march was generally peaceful before
the clash broke out and police cleared the street. Witnesses said
there had already been sporadic violence, including a youth
attempting to batter newspaper boxes.
Many protesters, who turned out despite periods of heavy rain,
chanted: "This is what democracy looks like."
The demonstrators were diverted to Front Street, and some massed
briefly in front of the Royal York Hotel. A crowd of several
hundred cheered as one man climbed the awning over the hotel's
main entrance and spray-painted "Stop murder" on a U.S. flag
before setting it ablaze.
There were also reports of slow-moving vehicles interfering with
traffic on the arterial Don Valley Parkway. Mr. Clarke could not
confirm that those people were officially part of the protest, but said
he personally had no doubt.
The demonstration was "enormously successful," Mr. Clarke said,
adding that the protesters wanted to show that "it couldn't be
business as usual."
OCAP was also involved in a violent protest last year at Queen's
Park, seat of the Ontario provincial legislature. With concerns
accentuated by last month's terrorist attacks on New York and
Washington, law-enforcement authorities have decided to take no
Police refuse to give specific numbers of officers in the downtown
core "for security reasons," but witnesses at the scene describe a
massive law-enforcement presence.
Questioned by reporters about the security presence, Toronto Police
Chief Julian Fantino said that he would not stand by and watch
Toronto reel under the sort of violence seen in Seattle, Prague,
Quebec City and Genoa.
"They shouldn't have big rocks and sticks, tear gas and masks,"
Chief Fantino said. They "obviously intended to do other then stage
a peaceful demonstration."
Chief Fantino apparently asked OCAP that the protest be postponed
"in the interest of public safety." In a letter published on their Web
site, OCAP responded that while demonstrations inevitably cause
some disruption, they have never "stated publicly or through
advertisement that they condone or encourage any threat to any
individual or person who may find them self within the