Wednesday, June 30, 2010

G20 Protests - streets return to normal

The G20 Summit security zone fences and barriers have been put away and the streets of Toronto are returning to normal. It turns out that the police did not have the power to search people and check IDs 5m outside the fence after all.

Most of the damaged windows are covered over in plywood and some plywood coverings, such as Urban Outfitters on Yonge Street, have been used for sale signs. A few of the windows have also started to be replaced, like at the Bay. Street furniture is being put back in place and soon the plastic garbage bags taped to streetlights will be removed.

The burned up police cars have left a few scars on the streets which will be one of the longer lasting affects of the protests. Here is the intersection of Bay and King Streets where a cars was torched.
One thing that was fleeting was the jets of the G8/G20 leaders in Toronto. Here is a picture of the US President's Air Force One plane in Toronto International Airport on Saturday night, June 26.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Honda Indy Toronto 2010 Schedule

Update July 12: Check out my blog post for information on special events including the Driver's Party.
The Honda Indy Toronto has announced their 2010 schedule for the race weekend - remember that Friday is free entrance. The week leading up to the race is full of events off site. On Tues and Wed July 13 and 14 the events will be at Yonge-Dundas Square, Thurs July 15 is the Run, Walk 'n Wheelathon and later in the day there is an autograph session at Bay Eatons Centre. You know we are getting close when the Thunder Alley stands are in place and the barriers on Lakeshore are almost complete (above) and turn 9 needs a little streetlight removal (below).

The on and off track schedule, with gate times, is shown after the jump.

Pam Seatle reporting live from the G20 frontlines

CityTV reporter Pam Seatle, gas mask at the ready, reports on the frontlines of the G20 Summit protests on the south yard of Queen's Park. This was just before the riot police started moving northwards to take over the south yard and the north yard which was Summit's official protest site.
There were many people with gas masks including the police, some protesters and some media. Actually there were some media with helmets on, just in case. I understand from the reports that the police were arresting people carrying gas masks (which they may have found during illegal searches) so I hope Pam didn't end up in the pokey.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

G20 Protests - The face of peaceful protesters

The many thousands of people engaged in the democratic principle of free speech and protest gathered on the streets of Toronto and marched to spread their awareness about their causes - which for the most part centered around union solidarity and helping others, in fact the title of the march was "People First".

Some came looking for a fight and violent confrontations but the vast majority wanted to take part in a typical Canadian protest - which includes bright flags, colourful costumes, funny signs and friendly smiles. Many more gathered and joined in the march to witness the day's events and to add their voices in protest as there were some that found the G20 police presence and loss of freedom was something to be concerned about. We saw one hothead grab some bricks and the crowd around him told him to drop the bricks - which he did.

My favourite group was the clowns who joined in a small group and in an intriguing fashion moved closer and closer to the line of police blocking Bay Street at Richmond Street. They moved everyone out of their way by saying they weren't looking for us, they were looking for the police. Each one moved from the back to the front, posed and then another from the back took their place. They finally get to the police line, bring a smile to the police, were refused passage and carefully backed away in the same manner as how they arrived.

Some people wore funny outfits or had funny sayings on their shirts - like the ever popular "Don't Taze me Bro" or "Free Hugs". Many of the friendly faces were even those of the police after the main groups of protesters pass they quickly relax and even joke around with people.

You can see more pictures of the protesters after the jump.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

G20 Protests - Damage in the Streets

Sid Ryan gathered some union members and started a march of about 4,000 down University Avenue on Saturday, June 26, 2010. The early start to the peaceful march was briefly interrupted when a single elderly protester got into the barriers along University Avenue in front of the American Consulate. The riot police banged their shields and deployed within the barriers and five or six of the officers then took down the protester.
The protest carried on down to Queen Street, turning west towards Spadina. They had to turn west at Queen Street because of the line of bicycle police forming an arc, backed up by a phalanx of riot police who were in turn supported by a contingent of mounted police. Along the route sidestreets were blocked with riot police keeping the march moving west.

At Queen and Spadina the main group went north back to Queens Park while a large contingent remained at the intersection confronting the police blocking their way south. After a short period the protesters left this area and headed east along Queen Street towards Bay Street and the Eaton Centre.

Walking along Queen Street behind the protest we surveyed the damage as mail boxes were tipped over in the street and the occasional windows were broken and cars damaged. CTV and the banks seemed to be the specific targets.

At the former Much Music Building and now home to CTV the riot police move closer after windows in the building were broken. When they moved people out of speakers corner some of the protesters were hit by police including this young lady who said she got a riot shield pressed against followed with a baton hit against the shield that left a welt on her arm.

We were continuing down Bay Street when the police began blocking off intersections, cutting off the protesters in the individual blocks as reports of explosions began to surface - it turns out that these were the police cars being destroyed and lit on fire. Here is the view looking south down Bay Street.
After they had opened up a lot of Bay Street the police suddenly set up a blockade on Bay Street just south of Queen Street and the court house. The chanting of the crowds soon sent this group of riot police heading south.
There were a couple of police cars set afire on this day, several in the area of Queen and Spadina. One of the cars still smolders in the background as the riot police line up along Queen Street.
Protester were in several large groups throughout the downtown core. Some were closer to the fenced area while many others circulated along Queen Street, University Street, Queens Park and also Yonge Street.

The protestors were made up of several major groups - the hard core anarchists hoping to stir things up, the activists getting their message across to the world forum that the G20 creates, the protesters protesting the police powers and loss of freedoms, the main stream and online media documenting the day and a large group of people watching what happens and taking part in the protest in a very mild way. Only the anarchists really wanted to cause damage and there really wasn't that many of them and most of the time they were dressed in black with balaclavas and hoods disguising their identities. When the anarchist group joined up with the peaceful protesters at Queens Park they took off their black clothes and blended into the crowd.
As the day wore on the police seemed to be trying to bore the protesters into dispersing, both the small component eager to cause damage and mayhem and the regular activists intent on peaceful means, when things changed and the mounted and riot police moved into Queens Park. The police moved north onto the south yard of the legislature and began driving the protesters north where many were struck by batons and arrested. I was surprised because I thought Queens Park was supposed to be the official protest site.
Up till that point the police were only containing the crowd with lines of police blocking routes leading south towards the fence. Even the damage along Queen Street and Bay Streets went unchallenged which I think was a good idea as the anarchists needed to get the crowd whipped into a frenzy and willing to take on the police - however this is Canada and all we really wanted to do was protest and witness the events of the day. Seeing the police charge in and start arresting people would have got many of the crowd angry and really ramp up the charged atmosphere.
The anarchists have certainly hijacked the day and everyone will now only think of the damage that was done and probably call for an end of more of our freedoms. Well, at least the world leaders weren't inconvenienced.

See more pictures of the protest after the jump.

Friday, June 25, 2010

G20 - WWF Ice Bear Sculpture

A life-sized polar bear ice sculpture is melting in Berczy Park while the WWF hopes that climate change is addressed in the G8/G20 Summits. The Ice Bear is a 500kg bronze skeleton covered in 10 tonnes of ice and carved by British artist Mark Coreth (in red shirt, below).

G20 Protests

People gathered by the hundreds in Allan Gardens preparing for the protest rally and march through the streets of Toronto. This really was a protest of many faces as so many groups and individuals wanted to get word out for various causes - there were even some protesting grannies. The official protest site - Queen's Park, was vacant beside for the large contingent of media patiently waiting for protesters, any protesters.
At one corner of Allan Gardens police were checking bags of the people entering the park, elsewhere along the sidewalks surrounding the park other people just walked in a joined the growing crowds. Some groups had to remove the poles holding large banners because the police were worried that the poles would become weapons. People were painting banners and distributing protest signs.

Starting early in the day the rally was supposed to start at 2:30pm but it took quite a long time to get rolling. The march hit Carlton Street around 4:00pm and walked west towards Yonge Street. The protest was led by women and the trans-gendered. The yellow and red banners mark the start of the march along Carlton Street.
See more pictures and coverage of the protest rally and march after the jump.

G20 Police Searches and Recording IDs

The G8 and G20 summit is a gathering of certain world leaders some I would recognize from TV but most I could pass in the street without having a clue who they were. These two events have an estimated cost to Canada of $1.1 billion (with estimates this will probably end up being at least $1.5 billion) and security is the largest chunk of this cost at about $1 billion. At One Billion Dollars the story is not the world leaders, we won't see them anyway, it is the police and the powers that they have been given in some locations and enforce in other locations on their own.

One Billion Dollars - wow, and what have we got? We have more police than protesters, police of every variety such as horse-mounted police, motorcycle police, bicycle police, police in cruiser,  police in unmarked vehicles, marine police and many more police who have to walk. Toronto forces have been beefed up with the RCMP and even other jurisdictions like York Region.

Freedom has been thrown out the window in many parts of downtown away from the security zone. I was riding my bike on Yonge Street approaching Wellington Street when I noticed that the police seemed to be searching people's bags. When I asked the police if they were searching bags the police agreed that they were searching bags. They said they were checking for weapons. When I asked if they had reports of weapons in bags or were only searching bags on the random chance that they were going to find weapons I was asked to produce ID. Not only to produce ID but to answer questions and all the information was written down on a special form. Talk about police intimidation. Ironically they did not search my backpack.

Ontario has passed the Ontario Public Works Protection Act which extends from inside the G20 yellow zone security perimeter to 5m outside the fence (see the G20 zone map). Within this area you have to produce identification and state your purpose.  I was on Yonge Street and was not even close to Bay Street which has the fence  when I asked the question to police. For this question I was required to provide my ID. I am curious if some police force will now show up at my home to further question me. What does it mean to be on this list of people that were required to provide ID?

You may want to avoid downtown Toronto because of the inconvenience, or the possibility that protesters will riot, not because you are afraid of the police and of being on a Toronto Police list. I will return to Toronto tomorrow to see what other excitement the G20 has in store for us. Who knows, maybe I will bump into President Obama at a bakery buying Canada cookies.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lil' Ducklings

A small family of ducks enjoys a summer swim. Mommy keeps a close eye out for the little ones to keep them safe.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ontario Earthquake

Just before 2:00pm on June 23, 2010 the earth started moving with weird vibrations and my desk felt like it was on jelly. I am working in Milton away from Toronto during the prelude to the G20 Summit. Reports of an earthquake in Ottawa and reports coming in that other people have felt the quake in the GTA area.

At first I thought it was the construction site next door using big equipment but they aren't doing any earthwork now and they have no large equipment on site.

It could be the extra weight of the G20 security fence has compressed the earth and unbalanced the fault line and caused the earthquake - is there nothing that a billion dollars cannot buy?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

High Bike in the City

I have seen this guy a few times, riding his bike that has a vertical extension. It looks like it would need an elevator to get off the bike. I have seen him go around in circles waiting for a light to change so he can continue on his way. I guess he could lean against poles when he had to stop.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Graffiti Box

How can graffiti get any better?

G20: Ghost Town Toronto

The final week leading up to the G20 Summit has created a climate of uncertainty in Toronto. While there will certainly be traffic delays and protests everyone worries that violence will break out. Arriving on the GO train first thing in the morning I am shocked by the lack of people. Where I had previously experienced long line-ups, today I see none. I look around my downtown office and only 10 to 20 percent of the desks are filled. There are no long lines of taxis along the front of Union Station.
Walking downtown along Bay Street I come upon a police officer, her riot helmet with facemask attached to her belt. Groups of officers gather near major intersections and beside the gates that currently remain open. Roving groups of both Toronto and RCMP officers also carry their riot helmets.

At Yonge-Dundas Square there is more security fence and yellow caution tape. I look over the extraordinary security arrangements - what are they protecting? I realize it is sand and know that it could only be for the G20 Summit. It must be a sand box for the world leaders to escape the pressure of doing G20 stuff, a place they can play in their suit shorts, thongs on their feet, safe behind the fence and bodyguards. They couldn't bring the G20 to Wasaga Beach so they have brought Wasaga Beach down to the Toronto G20. I believe that this fake beach is far cheaper than the fake lake and I overhear special security mention costs only in the $250,000 range.
Toronto should have incorporated the security preparations into Luminato – artists should have created fencing installations that would have made the City’s downtown core a work of art. Instead of just labels on a map, the orange and red areas should have the streets painted orange and red. We should have a reason to stay in Toronto, not run from it.

See more fence and security pictures after the jump.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

G20 fence completion

Toronto Police issued a news release saying that the last of the G20 security fences will be installed today and overnight until Monday morning's rush hour. The gates around most of the downtown core aren't supposed to be closed until Friday - then everything gets locked down tight.

The police say that "From 7 p.m., Sunday, June 20, 2010, motorists trying to get into the area, or those in the area, bounded by King Street to the north, Lakeshore Blvd to the south, Spadina Avenue to the
west and Yonge Street to the east, will encounter traffic delays due to intersection closures.
The closures are required to complete the final stages of the security fence.
As the work at intersections is completed, they will be re−opened to drivers. The TPS will, via
news releases and social medias feeds, keep the public updated.
It is anticipated that this work will be completed prior to the morning rush hour on Monday,
June 21, 2010."
If you feel like a stranger in a strange land it is because they don't trust you. Have your ID ready at hand and be ready to be questioned.

Polar Bears at the Toronto Zoo

My daughter had gone on a recent trip to the Toronto Zoo and watched the Polar Bears play in their new habitat - here are some of Erin's pictures. On Fathers Day the polar bears remind me of dads. The play jokes on each other, have fun and then do some snoozin - toss in some brews and they would definitely qualify to be dads. The way they are stretched out you could tell they would like some shorts and socks with sandals.

Redpath Toronto Waterfront Festival

The Redpath Toronto Waterfront Festival is on the Canada Day long weekend and will feature the Great Lakes United Tall Ship Challenge (The Race to Save the Lakes). The Challenge is a great lakes race and Toronto is their only Canadian stop in the event. The ships will come into harbour on the 30th of June and will stay over during the weekend. Over ten ships are expected to be in the Challenge and during the layover in Toronto will allow people onto the decks of the vessels (purchase of a boarding pass will be required).

The sips expected to participate are BRIGG Roald Amudsen, Germany; H.M.S. Bounty, U.S.A; BARK Europa, The Netherlands; Freedom Schooner AMISTAD (cancelled due to damage), U.S.A; Denis Sullivan, U.S.A; Pride of Baltimore II, U.S.A; U.S. BRIG Niagara; U.S.A, S.V. Unicorn [Sisters under Sail], U.S.A, Schooner Roseway [World Ocean School] and the Toronto Brigantines Playfair & Pathfinder. New additions to the Challenge include the U.S.A Schooner Appledore V and the U.S.A. HMS Bounty. Also present at the festival will be Toronto’s homeport vessels: Empire Sandy, Challenge and Kajama. The Parade of Sail will happen Sunday July 4 as the ships leave Toronto.

Redpath Waterfront Festival release says "A featured highlight is the participation of HMS Bounty. HMS Bounty was built for the 1962 Marlon Brando film "Mutiny on the Bounty" by MGM Studios in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia to tell the story of the famous maritime mutiny that occurred in the South Pacific in 1789. Now owned and operated by the HMS Bounty Organization LLC, she makes Greenport, Long Island, New York her homeport. In an effort to return Bounty to the condition of her Hollywood film days, the famous ship completed an extensive renovation from 2006-2007. Bounty has become a star again to a new generation when she was recently featured in the blockbuster film “Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest.”"

The third annual Waterfront festival will take place all along Toronto Harbour from Yonge Street to Lower Spandina including Harbourfront Centre and Queen’s Quay Terminal and will feature entertainment and the tall ships. General admission to the event will be free.

Don't forget about the Ontario Place Fesitival of Fire fireworks on the nights of Thursday, July 1st and Saturday July 3rd.

Doors Open

Scarborough Bluffs





Lake Ontario

Nathan Phillips Square