toronto riot june 6

Concerns about riots in downtown Toronto this Saturday June 6 intensify

Toronto residents are growing increasingly concerned about the prospect of violent riots breaking out amid peaceful protests in the downtown core this weekend as retailers board up their storefronts at levels unlike anything we've seen before.

With everyday haunts like Shopper's Drug MartStaples and even Starbucks now joining department stores and luxury retailers in battening down, the city is starting to look like a ghost town.

All storefronts surrounding the Eaton Centre and Yonge Dundas-Square are now completely blocked off by sheets of plywood, suggesting that these are no longer "precautionary" measures, but anticipatory.

Why?

Why, after last Saturday's massive yet entirely peaceful rally against anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in Toronto are business owners so nervous? 

Toronto Mayor John Tory has stated that he and Toronto Police are aware of social media posts suggesting that this weekend's planned anti-racism demonstrations "could be accompanied by some sort of misbehaviour."

Tory confirmed on Wednesday that the city had been receiving unspecified threats from people who want to "wreak havoc downtown," but called them "a tiny little minority of people who sit in their basements in the dark."

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said on Thursday during a press conference that officers have the resources to defend against whatever threats to public safety may surface, but that it would be "foolish" to provide any operational details.

"Every protest we have had to date has been peaceful so I am not going to speculate on what their intentions are," said Saunders of the alleged basement-dwellers.

"I can tell you that through my frontline officers the vast majority of people that have gone to protests in the City of Toronto have been peaceful. There is a lot of passion, there is a lot of anger and there is a lot of hope and I hope that as Torontonians we continue to do that."

"Online chatter," as Tory previously described conversation surrounding the potential riots on social media, picked up significantly on Thursday as locals began sharing ominous warnings from community leaders. 

"TORONTO! Stay home June 6th! There is a group of people planning a riot downtown and they are NOT with #blacklivesmatter!" reads a message shared by the Toronto-based Instagram star Donte Colley last night. "Please help share this around!"

Colley's post included screenshots, one of which appears to be an email telling people to stay home.

"Family and friends… BLACK BLOC is planning riots around now. This is NOT Black Lives Matter — this is a group coming from Montreal for the sole purpose of causing destruction," reads the message. 

"The riots are going to be along Yonge Street. Yorkdale and Eaton Centre are already beginning to board up windows. The tip came in from Crime Stoppers."

The veracity of these claims have not been confirmed, but they're circulating widely and from multiple sources who say the infamous anarchists are planning to go wild in Toronto on Saturday.

In addition to warnings of an anarchist group coming to wreak havoc on the city, many residents are sharing images of a pile of bricks that popped up near the corner of Queen and Ossington on Thursday.

Some suggest that these bricks have been "planted" to entrap peaceful protesters.

While protesters in some American cities have observed random and suspicious pallets of bricks laying around, it is also true that the entire area of Queen Street West between Shaw and Dovercourt is an active construction site. Piles of bricks and other debris on sidewalks are not uncommon in this part of Toronto right now.

While Tory and Saunders have both said they don't expect any trouble from people attending the many peaceful demonstrations staged around Toronto this weekend, there is evidence online of suspicious interloping.

A previously-announced and widely-shared Black Lives Matter protest scheduled to begin on Saturday around 2 p.m. at Nathan Phillips Square has been cancelled — or, rather, BLM has revealed that they have nothing to do with the event.

"Black Lives Matter – Toronto (BLMTO) has NO involvement in the organizing of any of this weekend's upcoming actions and marches," clarified the group in a statement Friday morning. 

"We believe in Black people mourning, grieving, and protesting however works for them and hope everyone look out and care for each other."

Tensions are high in Toronto right now despite the peaceful nature of recent anti-racism protests to date, given what's currently happening the U.S. 

Protests have been raging in major cities all across the country now for ten days in a row following the death of where 46-year-old George Floyd, who was murdered by police in Minneapolis last week.

While many Americans have been protesting peacefully to take a stand against racism, police brutality and government corruption, some have also been using the unrest as an excuse to loot and destroy big-box stores like TargetWalmart and Apple.

An estimated 4,000 people rallied in Toronto last Saturday to call for justice in the cases of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, 29-year-old Torontonian Regis Korchinski-Paquet, and all black lives lost during interactions with police.

Not a single arrest was made and no stores were looted. Ten years ago this month, however, violent riots did break out in Toronto during the now-infamous G20 summit.

"Just popping back into say the Toronto protest march on Friday the 5th and Saturday the 6th seems mad suspect to me, and I would stay tf home for any protest that doesn't happen through organizers known and trusted in the community," wrote Toronto journalist and activist Andray Domise on Thursday night of the riot rumours.

"Be safe out there."

Lead photo by

Peter Papi


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