Some downtown Toronto businesses boarded up as riots continue in United States
TORONTO -- Some downtown retail stores have boarded up their windows amid fears of rioting similar to what has been observed in a number of U.S. cities but Mayor John Tory is expressing confidence that Torontonians will continue to protest peacefully and says that any suggestion otherwise is likely just the musings of a small group of people who “spend a lot of their time in their basement typing out these kind of messages.”
On Monday evening crews were seen boarding up the Hudson’s Bay and Saks Fifth Avenue department stores on Queen Street West as well as a Best Buy location near Dundas and Bay streets as riots continued to break out south of the border following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The boards put up at the Bay and Saks Fifth Avenue were, however, taken down on Tuesday afternoon.
At this point it is not clear whether there was any credible threat to the businesses but the president of the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area did tell CTV News Toronto on Tuesday that he took the precaution of notifying members after becoming aware of the possibility of some kind of action along Yonge Street this week.
“I don’t know specific days, I don’t know specific threats as to what’s there, all I know is there is a credible source indicating that something could happen sometime this week and that the authorities are taking the appropriate steps and we have communicated that to our members and our security teams and they have taken the right actions to mitigate those risks,” Mark Garner said.
Tory says he expects protests will continue to be peaceful
Garner said that there has not been any sort of violence or property damage in Toronto so far and that he is hopeful that will continue to be the case.
During an unrelated press conference earlier in the day, Tory acknowledged that police are “gathering intelligence with respect to the activities that people might or might not engage in” and will remain “vigilant.”
That said Tory expressed confidence that people who have shared concerns about anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in Toronto in the wake of Floyd’s death “have no interest whatsoever” in participating in any rioting.
“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 in response to a question about one particular rumour. “If you are one of those sorry trouble causers that I think by and large spend a lot of their time in their basement typing out these kinds of messages about this kind of activity just forget it. 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.”
Floyd’s death at the hands of a police officer who pinned a knee against his neck for nearly eight minutes has been the subject of protests across the United States since a video of the incident surfaced last week. While those protests have been mostly peaceful, there have been reports of violence and looting at times.
Over the weekend approximately 4,000 people marched along Bloor Street to protest anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism but despite the large crowds the event remained peaceful.
Speaking with reporters, Tory said that the city has so far “done itself proud in the way in which it has handled some very heartfelt protests” and that the “Toronto way is to continue to do it that way.”
“We are very focused on trying to address in a meaningful way the issues that have caused a lot of hurt for people here and elsewhere on this continent and we will go about continuing to do that and will rely on police to keep us safe,” he said. “I am sure that this tiny group of people who want to engage in this kind of behaviour (looting and violence), for reasons I can’t possibly fathom, will perhaps just stay in the basement typing out those messages.”
In a statement provided to Newstalk 1010 on Tuesday, Toronto police said that they are “aware of various social media posts regarding protest activity in the city” and “will continue to monitor and respond, if necessary, to ensure the safety of everyone involved.”
Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford said during his regular briefing at Queen’s Park that while he understands the reasons some businesses may have for choosing to board up their windows, he believes the situation in Ontario is different than the one in the U.S.
“People in Ontario just wouldn’t tolerate that,” he said of the reported looting. "We are better than that."