TORONTO - A counter-summit in Toronto meant to challenge the G8 and G20 was dubbed "protest school" by organizers on Friday, as they shied away from denouncing violent action by demonstrators.

"People protest in various ways. Again, we're simply organizing a conference," said Dylan Penner, a committee member at the summit and media officer for the Council of Canadians, as he fielded a barrage of questions about the summit's stance on violence.

The People's Summit will host speakers and representatives from unions and non-governmental organizations, who will meet for the next three days at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto for "teach-ins."

About 1,000 people are expected to attend the discussions. They will come from all over the world, including many from South American countries such as Venezuela and Chile.

Participants will tackle topics such as global justice, climate change, human rights and economic justice, among other issues.

While classes such as "direct action training" and "digitally mediated surveillance: rights and resistance" are on the agenda, the committee said the event is meant to be a peaceful weekend of learning.

"The summit has been called protest school by a few people in the past, and a lot of ways this weekend is going to be an opportunity to get engaged in a social movement," said Marya Folinsbee, the co-ordinator of the People's Summit, as she described how the weekend will work.

Folinsbee accused "the state" of being the real perpetrator of violence, as she deflected questions about whether or not organizers of the counter-summit would hold protesters accountable during the G20.

"We have to be holding our leaders accountable," she retorted.

Folinsbee was also quick to point out that many of the workshops encouraged peaceful protest, such as "communication skills for activists," which teaches protesters "how to de-escalate an angry movement."

But there are also workshops planned for debating and discussing a "diversity of tactics" during the G20 and G8 summits.

"I would encourage you to come talk about it. It would be a really interesting debate," Folinsbee said when challenged by a reporter.

"It is really cloudy, and it is really complicated to work in solidarity with each other when these issues are still on the table," she added.

Penner said protesters have been demonized, and fear-mongering has made the public nervous about violence during the G8 and G20.

The committee for the People's Summit also suggested violence in past summits has not come from protesters, but from agent provocateurs.

"The state is, in fact, doing criminal activity if they don't rule out agents provocateurs," said Christine Jones, co-chair of the Canadian Peace Alliance as she spoke at the news conference Friday.

Jones sited the 2007 Montebello summit of North American leaders as an example.

Quebec police admitted that three of their officers disguised themselves as demonstrators during protests.

The groups involved in the counter-summit have asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper to rule out the use of agents provocateurs during the G8 and G20 summits.

The People's Summit in Toronto is free, open to the public and runs until Sunday.

Along with workshops, people can also take in presentations, skills training and cultural events.

A People's Summit is also taking place in Vancouver on Sunday.