Toronto police clashed with protesters for a second straight day on Sunday, with a final standoff played out in the downtown core near the just-finished G20 summit of world leaders.
Police said that 605 protesters had been arrested by late afternoon, while onlookers said many of those arrested came from peaceful protests. The running tally did not include the dozens seen detained by a Reuters witness just blocks away from where the G20 leaders wrapped up talks focused on fixing the ills of the global economy.
Trouble began on Saturday when the anarchists broke away from the main peaceful protest by trade unions and other groups around the summit conference center, and began smashing the windows of banks and chain stores and setting alight police patrol cars in the shopping and financial districts. Footage from the Canadian broadcaster CTV also showed them looting, and threatening photographers.
Police armed with batons, tear gas, pepper spray and plastic bullets were deployed with mounted officers to try to control the violence, news reports said.
The standoff on Sunday lasted more than five hours, from the late afternoon through to the late evening, as hundreds of police in full riot gear hemmed in protesters at a normally busy downtown intersection. A heavy downpour and a severe thunderstorm warning added to the drama as the standoff continued until 9:43pm.
“We had evidence of Black Bloc [anarchist] people, we had people donning masks in that very group, that’s exactly how everything started yesterday,” said Staff Sergeant Jeff McGuire in explaining why police opted to move against the protesters.
The operation ended abruptly after a heavy downpour, and police released most of the crowd unconditionally, McGuire told reporters. He could not confirm the number arrested.
Earlier, police confronted another group of protesters and fired tear gas for a second straight day. That clash occurred after hundreds of protesters marched on a temporary detention center for demonstrators arrested in Saturday’s riots.
Witnesses saw at least two muzzle blasts, and a police spokeswoman confirmed that “individual applications of tear gas” were fired on the crowd. The blasts are typically used against individuals at close range.
During Saturday’s violence police used tear gas against the public for the first time ever in Toronto.
Among those detained, on charges ranging from mischief to assaulting police, were four people who climbed through the sewer system and emerged near the lock-down area where world leaders were attending the summit.
About 70 people also were detained after police raided the University of Toronto’s downtown campus. Police said they seized weapons, including bricks, rocks and sticks.
A local TV station said that four of its reporters were also among those arrested at the Sunday evening standoff.
“Police are continuing to arrest people who engage in criminal activity,” police spokeswoman Jenn Geary said. “Media are treated just the way anyone else is. If they breach security they’re going to be arrested.”
There was anger at some of the police tactics. In scenes broadcast live in Toronto, an officer in riot gear could be seen striking an apparently unarmed protester several times during a standoff between lines of protesters and police. A Montreal journalist, Stefan Christoff, said he was hit many times by a riot policeman with plastic-coated metal baton after chanting slogans opposed to the G20.