“This is what democracy looks like,” chanted peaceful protesters, including myself, advocating a plethora of social issues on our march from Queen’s Park in Toronto to the intersection at Queen St. and Spadina Ave, during Saturday’s start of the G20 meetings.
Sure enough, the so-called Black Bloc soon materialized; a menacing homogenous group of vandals with the intent of doing as much damage as possible to draw police away from the infamous “gate.”
They split from the main group once we arrived at a standoff with police and unleashed well-orchestrated mayhem upon corporate Toronto.
Meanwhile, Helter Skelter accompanied the tension as the main group of protesters had a unit of police surrounded around a smashed police cruiser.
Although police remained stoic and calm throughout, you could see a defined fear in their faces, followed by relief when another four units trickled in as backup.
After finally forcing the protesters back down Queen St., riot police finally backed off at Peter St., and as the main protest backtracked towards the financial district we discovered the anarchists’ work.
Nearly every Starbucks and bank we passed sported broken windows and spray-painted walls, with security staff watching us intensely from inside, like we were an exhibit at the zoo. It’s an eerie feeling peering in to a destroyed Starbucks where mere hours before a smiling barista cheerfully handed you a coffee.
Police and protesters spent the next few hours in an intersection-by-intersection power struggle to the sound of taunting chants and the authoritative strike of batons on riot shields in unison. All while the Black Bloc tore through Yonge St., smashing nearly every corporate business while storeowners watched in horror.
And when they were finished, a simple wardrobe change let them rejoin the crowd undetected, while Torontonians were left to pick up the pieces, wondering now if this really was what democracy is supposed to look like.
Peter McCartney, a native Calgarian, is an intern with Metro Calgary and is heading into his second year at Carleton University’s journalism program.