Black-clad demonstrators broke off from a crowd of peaceful protesters at the global economic summit in Toronto yesterday, torching police cruisers and smashing windows with baseball bats and hammers. Police arrested more than 150, reports the AP. Police used shields, clubs, tear gas and pepper spray to push back the rogue protesters who tried to head toward the Group of 20 summit site. "We have never seen that level of wanton criminality and vandalism and destruction on our streets," Toronto police chief Bill Blair said.
Blair said the goal of the militant protesters was to draw police away from the security perimeter of the summit so that fellow protesters could attempt to disrupt the meeting. Security was being provided by an estimated 19,000 officers drawn from across Canada, and security costs are estimated at more than $900 million. Toronto's downtown resembles a fortress, with a big steel and concrete fence protecting the summit site. "The thugs that prompted violence earlier today represent in no way shape or form the Canadian way of life," said a spokesman for Canadian PM Stephen Harper.