Hundreds of black-clad demonstrators protesting the G-20 economic summit in Toronto, Canada turned violent today as they torched police vehicles and smashed windows. More than 150 people were arrested by the police, which used shields, clubs, tear gas and pepper spray to control the protesters. The protesters tried to breach the security fence surrounding the perimeter of the summit site.
“We have never seen that level of wanton criminality and vandalism and destruction on our streets,” Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said. The protesters torched three police cruisers in different parts of the city and some protesters also threw bottle at the police.
Talking about the violent protests, Blair said that it was done to draw police away from the security perimeter of the summit and give the protesters an opportunity to disrupt the meeting.
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The vandalism happened very near to the building where President Barack Obama and other world leaders were meeting. “These images are truly shocking to Canadians. We are taking all measures necessary to ensure Canadians, delegates, media and international visitors remain safe,” Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement.
Commenting on the issue, Dimitri Soudas, the chief spokesman for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “Free speech is a principle of our democracy. But the thugs that prompted violence earlier today represent in no way shape or form the Canadian way of life.”
The protest march was sponsored by labor unions and it was the largest demonstration planned during the weekend summits. Security in Toronto has been beefed up with a big steel and concrete fence to prevent any untoward incident.