Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Thousands of protesters rally for G20 public inquiry

Roughly 1,000 people listen to a speech by Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, at Queen's park on Saturday July 10.

Adrian Morrow/The Globe and Mail

Thousands of people turned out for a protest in Toronto Saturday afternoon, calling for more public inquiries into police treatment of protesters during the G20 summit.

In a route laden with symbolism, protesters marched from Queen's Park, where the first mass arrests took place during the G20 protests, to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the site of the summit itself, which became an inaccessaible fortress during the G20.

As samba drummers played and blew whistles, a group of 16 people held up letters spelling "public inquiry" and "civil liberties".

Story continues below advertisement

The tension that permeated the G20 protests was largely absent, with police on bicycles blocking traffic for the march and protesters playing cowbells and carrying flags emblazoned with images of snakes the the slogan "don't tread on me."

"Two weeks ago, every official in this city and in this country said there will be no public inquiry," veteran activist Judy Rebick told the crowd. "Today there are three public inquiries being called. But it's not enough. We want a full inquiry at the federal level and the provincial level that will point the finger at who turned our city into a police state."

Protesters were angry with the police response to the G20, which saw 1,000 people rounded up in the largest mass arrests in Canadian history, and with the province's giving the police arbitrary search and seizure powers.

Lisa Walter, a writer and photojournalist for Our Times, a labour magazine, was arrested on June 27, near Bloor and Bay streets with two other independent journalists.

"Two of those journalists were threatened with rape and the third was tasered even after he indicated he had a pacemaker," she said.

Ms. Walter added that she was segregated along with other gay and lesbian protesters in solitary confinement at the detention centre.

Saturday's protest wound its way along College Street and down Spadina Avenue to Queen Street, pausing briefly at the intersection where riot police boxed in hundreds of people and held them in the pouring rain for four hours on the final night of the G20 summit.

Story continues below advertisement

The police presence at the march was light, with most officers on bicycles and none of the black-clad riot squads that policed the G20 in sight. Officers co-operated with the protest, blocking traffic and keeping protesters from straying onto a streetcar right of way in the median of Spadina Avenue.

The march continued down Queen and Peter streets to Front Street, and finished outside the convention centre with speeches from the back of a truck.

The crowd was an eclectic mix of middle-aged trade unionists, young students, aboriginal people and some who hadn't been to the original protests but decided to attend after seeing images of mass arrests on TV.

Paul Tornello, a 55-year-old IT recruiter, said he had never been to a demonstration before but felt compelled to attend - along with a home-made sign reading "I left my bat and bricks at home and brought my voice" - after he found out police had allowed the public to remain under the mistaken impression that they had arbitrary powers within five metres of the security fence.

"That's big government making an incursion into our rights," he said.

Beth Washburn, a 34-year-old PhD student who punctuated the lively march with the sounds of her alto tuba, said she was so intimidated by the police presence on the Friday of the G20 weekend that she didn't return on the other days.

Story continues below advertisement

"The police circled us in and boxed us in," she said.

Andrew Barber, 25, said he and his friends were stopped and searched several times during G20 weekend by police who dumped out their water.

"The options were 'show your ID and submit to a search, or face arrest,'" he said. "They said 'times are changing, boys.'"

The protest ended without incident around 5 p.m. outside the convention centre. Organizers estimated 5,000 people had turned up for the march; police officers at the scene put the crowd at 1,000.

Both the Toronto Police Services Board and Ontario auditor-general André Marin have announced probes into police and government decision-making at the G20, but activists say both are limited in scope and are calling for more wide-ranging inquiries.

Demonstrations were also planned in Halifax, Kingston and Montreal.

With a report from The Canadian Press


An earlier version of this online story incorrectly stated that Lisa Walter belonged to the news website Now Public. This version has been corrected.

Report an error
About the Author
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at