G-20 Violence at Toronto Already?

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WARREN TODA/epa/Corbis

The G-8 and G-20 summits are being held back-to-back next week in Canada, and the protests that traditionally greet both events have gotten started early.

On Monday afternoon, a group of 100 activists — the usual mix of anti-poverty, anti-globalization and anti-fossil fuel protestors — marched down Toronto’s Dundas Street, briefly occupying an Esso gas station. (Esso is an international subsidiary of Exxon.)

“Corporations like Esso have caused irreparable damage all over the world,” the Toronto Star quoted one activist as saying. “There is a lack of housing. This is our housing now.”

The group then picketed the Children’s Aid Society.

In all, one protester was arrested at the beginning of the march. Another was arrested as the demonstration broke up.

Light protests are scheduled for the entire week (today’s theme was gender equality and queer and disability rights), but the largest is the ‘People First’ rally planned for Saturday, June 26. Organizers claim it will be a peaceful protest, but violence seems to follow the anti-globalization rallies. In 2001, an activist was shot and killed by police during the G-8 in Genoa; in 2005 almost 100 protestors, some of them armed, were arrested outside the Gleneagles summit; in 2008 nearly 900 protestors and 150 police were injured in street fighting in Heiligendamm.

Ironically, this round of summits has come under fire from voices on the right as well as from the radical left. The Wall Street Journal has been emphasizing the ironically-high cost of the summits, which this year are focusing on slashing deficits, on the Canadian taxpayer. ‘Canada Spends Over C$1 Billion To Urge G20 Nations To Reduce Debts,’ ran a recent headline.

The protests and security have the city a little on edge — the news ran wild with the story of three gunshots fired into the air near the G-20 site until officials confirmed they were unrelated to the summits — and it’s worth asking: If it’s like this now, what will it be like when the conference is actually happening?