riot in toronto

Toronto stores boarding up doors and windows to prevent looting in case of riots

Unverified reports of potential riots in downtown Toronto on Monday night prompted dozens of high-profile retailers to board up their windows and doors for fear of being looted.

The rumoured riots never happened.

And yet, storefronts all over the downtown core remain obscured by makeshift wooden barriers as of Tuesday morning in apparent anticipation of unrest similar to that seen in cities all over the world right now against anti-Black racism and police brutality.

Toronto Police have only said that they are aware of social media posts promoting protests in the city and that they "will continue to monitor and respond if necessary to ensure the safety of everyone involved."

Residents of the city remain skeptical on the whole, however, that we'll see violent and destructive riots in Toronto like those observed in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Detroit, Montreal and Minneapolis, where 46-year-old George Floyd was murdered by police last week.

An estimated 4,000 people remained civil, after all, during a peaceful protest and march through downtown Toronto on Saturday.

Hosted by Not Another Black Life, Saturday's anti-racism rally was held in honour of both Floyd and a 29-year-old Toronto woman named Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who died falling from the balcony of a High Park apartment building during an interaction with police last Wednesday.

After marching from Christie Pits park, protesters congregated outside Toronto Police Headquarters Saturday afternoon to demand justice for Korchinski-Paque while decrying anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.

Protesters chanted and held up signs with messages such as "No justice, No peace," "Stop killing us," and "Cops lie, Blacks die," but no arrests were made and no instances of looting were reported.

Still, retailers in Toronto are worried that future demonstrations could turn violent in light of what's been happening in other big cities following the death of Floyd.

Widely-circulated and highly-disturbing video footage from the unarmed black man's death shows a white Minneapolis police officer named Derek Chauvin kneeling on the right side of Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd pleads for his life, stating that he can't breathe and asking the four responding officers not to kill him.

Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter following Floyd's death from asphyxiation, but activists worldwide say it's not enough, and that time's up for anti-Black racism in America.

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

Small businesses, restaurants, grocery stores and entire shopping malls have been destroyed in the U.S., where the National Guard has now been deployed in 23 states to help mitigate the chaos.

In Toronto, stores along the ritzy "Mink Mile" corridor on Bloor Street, along Queen West and directly surrounding the Eaton Centre have been boarding up their own doors to prevent businesses losses should the looting spread north. 

It's of note that the last time Toronto saw any real mass unrest with looting was ten years ago this month during the G20 summit protests.

As stores in Toronto lock themselves down again this week (some, only days after reopening from a pandemic-mandated closure period), many online are pointing out that riots aren't typically "planned" and wondering what would prompt such a drastic measure.

"Apparently Eaton Centre security and some surrounding shops received a tip off about some anarchist/anti capitalist gathering planned for tonight," wrote someone on Reddit Monday afternoon of the mass boarding.

"I have a good friend who works in retail security. There is apparently a growing rumour of planned riots this weekend," wrote another.

"Whether it's true or not a lot of businesses are on high alert and many are boarding up and some are closing down anticipating something."

Let's hope this is all just an unnecessary exercise in being "better safe than sorry."

Lead photo by

Giselle De Grandis

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