The first major demonstration organized as part of the “Themed Days of Resistance” in the lead-up to the G8/G20 Summits in Huntsville and Toronto gave a good indication of what $933 million worth of security preparations looks like on the ground, and a glimpse at the heavy-handed police presence that is likely throughout the week in Toronto.
Some 200 activists rallied in Toronto’s Allen Gardens under a blistering sun, and under the watchful eye of no less than 50 police on bicycles and members of the Integrated Security Unit’s “Community Relations Group” who surrounded the group as they gave speeches in the park. A police helicopter circled overhead and the park was ringed by Suburban SUVs, the vehicle of choice for security in Toronto.
As the march started the police formed a line to temporarily stop the group from leaving the park, but eventually the crowd moved past the line and onto the streets. Chanting “G8, G20: you are few but we are many” the crowd marched through the streets of downtown Toronto surrounded on all sides by an overwhelming force of hundreds of police.
Police formed lines with bikes along the length of the march, with each side street also flanked by another line of police on bicycles, while the march was followed closely by a group of police vehicles. Dozens of additional police waited in trucks or on bikes on sidestreets along the march route.
Despite the high cost of the security operations, indications were that for most of the march the police were unable to use their radios as a technical malfunction. At the midway point the problem was somehow resolved and members of the security forces spent time trying to work their radios properly.
Numerous individuals, who may be undercover police, were also seen talking with police before rejoining the march, and later standing near police lines talking with officers at the periphery of the crowd.
There have been numerous reports over the weekend of activists and non-activists alike being harassed by police, in a couple of cases for wearing backpacks that “look heavier than normal.” One activist was surrounded by police and ticketed for not having a bell on his bike. Another was arrested before the march started. This stepped up harassment of individual activists and overwhelming presence at a peaceful community march come on the same day the RCMP revealed they will also deploy water cannons as part of their billion-dollar security operation.