What happened to those rumoured riots in Toronto this weekend?
Dozens of major retailers started boarding up the doors and windows of their storefronts in downtown Toronto last week, creating a bizarre and concerning scene for reasons that still remain largely unknown.
When asked about the behaviour, Mayor John Tory told reporters that police were aware of "online chatter" suggesting that peaceful protests against anti-Black racism on June 6 could be interrupted by "some sort of misbehaviour."
Tory later said that the city had recieved unspecified threats from people who said they would infiltrate the weekend's protests to "wreak havoc downtown."
He referred to the perpetrators as "a tiny little minority of people who sit in their basements in the dark and send these kind of messages and incitements back and forth to each other."
And yet, as the week went on, more and more businesses boarded up their stores: Luxury retailers along Bloor Street, fast-food restaurants on Queen West, literally everything surrounding the Eaton Centre... It was strange.
Strange enough, at least, to believe that members of the business community were aware of information suggesting a serious threat of damages to their property. Boarding up entire strips of the downtown core can't be cheap, after all.
Retailers kept mum across the board about why they were battening down.
Even police were vague in the information they revealed, telling us on Friday that they were "aware of various social media posts regarding protest activity in the city" and that officers would "continue to monitor and will respond, if necessary, to ensure the safety of everyone involved."
The rumoured riots never took place.
Instead, people staged a series of peaceful demonstrations on Saturday, just like they had done the previous day and the previous week in memory of Regis Korchinksi-Paquet, George Floyd and all Black lives lost during interactions with police.
Save for one white person who showed up to Nathan Phillips Square painted head to toe in black makeup, no nefarious characters made headlines by interrupting the protests to loot or riot.
Reports of extremist groups planning to descend upon the city have been called out on Twitter as "fakes" and "hoaxes," while others say would-be rioters were deterred by the foiling of a fake Black Lives Matter event and widely-shared warnings of potential foul play.
There is no evidence to support claims on either side of that debate. All we know is that riots didn't take place.
So grateful @ARITZIA is unboarding their store at 6am and throwing the wood. Whoever ordered it boarded up should resign in disgust. You basically squeezed your purse when you heard about scary black people coming DT and you don't respect those of us who live here either. #racist— Lee Flohr (@LeeFlohr) June 8, 2020
Whether the threats of "misbehaviour" spoken about by Tory were sent to police as a hoax or something else took place, retailers still boarded up their windows and doors en masse ahead of the weekend's planned protest events.
Some online are suggesting that they did without any sort of threat, simply to protect merchandise in case riots broke out in Toronto like they have across the U.S. in recent weeks — and that it wasn't anarchists they were afraid of, but anti-racism protesters.
"Every biz on Queen Street that boarded up their windows should be ashamed of itself. You bet against the customers you serve when you should have built a bridge with a community you marginalized," wrote one Toronto resident.
"It's pathetic. Your racist orgs should donate lots of money to fix this or leave."
Stores in Toronto that boarded up...we didn’t riot and we taking mental notes for when shit opens back up— BOYFRN (@boyfrn3) June 7, 2020
It remains to be seen why the stores were boarded up, but many have been unboarded as of Monday afternoon.
Cadillac Fairview sent the following statement to blogTO on Monday when asked about why the CF Toronto Eaton Centre had been boarded up all weekend:
"We're happy to advise CF Toronto Eaton Centre office towers have resumed regular business operations as of Monday June 8. As a reminder only stores designated as essential services are open within the centre and access to the shopping centre is through level 2 Queen Street. Please note with the exception of the doors, the boarding will remain up for another week as we continue to assess the situation."
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