toronto looting

Stores in Toronto continue to board themselves up to prevent looting

A series of protests against anti-Black racism are planned in downtown Toronto this weekend, all of them intended to be peaceful in nature just like this past Saturday's rally in honour of Regis Korchinski-Paquet.

Up to 4,000 people are estimated to have attended that demonstration to call for justice in the cases of Korchinski-Paquet, George Floyd, and all Black lives lost during interactions with police. Not a single arrest was made and no property was damaged.

And yet, despite the exemplary behaviour shown by demonstrators in Toronto last weekend, retailers appear convinced that the city is vulnerable to riots like those currently raging across the U.S.

With scenes of unrest and mass looting pouring forth from American cities every day, store owners could be forgiven for feeling a bit on edge.

Doubly so, in fact, as it was ten years ago to the month that violent riots did break out in downtown Toronto during the G20 summit.

Still, many residents are confused as to why so many businesses are spending money to board up their doors and windows with no evidence to suggest that anything nefarious is planned.

The answer may lie in some ominous social media posts suggesting that this weekend's demonstrations "could be accompanied by some sort of misbehaviour," as Mayor John Tory put it on Wednesday.

Both Tory and Toronto Police have confirmed that they are monitoring the situation closely after receiving unspecified threats from people who want to "wreak havoc downtown."

Tory called those posting such threats a "tiny little minority of people who sit in their basements in the dark," but stores are nonetheless battening down.

From Nordstrom Rack to The Bay to The Gap, major retailers continue to board up their storefronts as the week goes on.

The behaviour was first observed around the Eaton Centre on Monday when unverified reports of a riot in Nathan Philips Square (one that never took place, by the way) circulated internally among mall tenants.

By Wednesday, luxury stores along Toronto's ritzy Mink Mile (Bloor Street south of Yorkville) were following suit .

Residents of the city have been sharing photos of the boarded up stores, some accompanied by barbed comments aimed at the corporations behind them.

"Is that why you’re allocating your resources towards boarding up the windows at your Toronto stores?" wrote one local in response to a Hudson's Bay Twitter post stating that the retailer stands with #BlackLivesMatter.

"How are you supporting black health, community and lives? Get TF out of here with this performative activism."

"I hope all those Toronto businesses boarding up for 'riots' donate to charity," wrote another. "At a minimum, put your insurance deductible up. You thought you were losing that anyways, didn't you?"

Tory remains confident, despite any negative chatter, that those who head out to protest racism and police violence this weekend will remain peaceful.

"I reject the fact that there is any reasonable critical mass of people that are interested in any way, shape or form of having any kind of disturbance on June 6 or on any other date," he said on Tuesday when asked about the rumours.

"The police are going to be vigilant, as they are every day, to make sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen and to keep us all safe and we can go about having whatever protests or other kind of commemorations are necessary to move these issues forward on anti-Black racism and anti-Indigenous racism."

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