Hundreds were forced onto U of T streets Saturday evening after baton-wielding police chased them from Queen’s Park along Harbord.
Tensions started at Queen’s Park South around 7:15 p.m., when police positioned at the south end began pressuring people to Queen’s Park North. Marching in line formation police charged forward and arrested and whipped some protesters. Several participants were visibly protesters but most were seemingly curious bystanders.
On the east end, police formed a diagonal line northeast-southwest across Wellesley Street E and Queens Park Crescent W. At 8:00 p.m., the crowd of roughly fifty was told to leave the park. About twenty replied with comments ranging from confusion to hostility. A chant of “we have a right to protest” caught on before police stormed ahead in 50-metre jolts.
The crowd from the east side of Queens Park Crescent was driven to the west side where police had similarly advanced on a much larger group. The two groups combined adjacent to Hart House and the now several hundred headed north.
Police blocked the north side of the crescent’s intersection forcing the group on Hoskin Avenue at 8:15 p.m.
The group split at Devonshire Place, with roughly equal numbers fleeing west and north. Police then advanced, once again running towards the groups and banging their shields. Several fell as the large packs squeezed into the narrow streets.
The roughly one hundred people heading westbound were then driven across St. George Street, still an active intersection with live traffic, onto Harbord.
Police retreated east on Hoskin Avenue towards Queen’s Park and the remaining people dispersed with only a few staying on the scene.
After the incident UTSU president Adam Awad admitted that both UTSU and university administration had knowledge of plans to route protesters through campus.
“When we had met with the provost, they told us that they were in discussions with the police,” said Awad. At a meeting between the UTSU and administration leading up to the G20, university officials acknowledged they were informed by police “that they would be sectioning people onto campus.”
A May 25 memorandum from U of T VP and provost Cheryl Misak announced that U of T would be closing from 6pm Wednesday June 23 to Sunday June 27 was for security reasons, since “the protest site [had] been moved to the doorstep of the St. George Campus.” Students residing in the constituent colleges for the summer were evicted and relocated to either 89 Chestnut Street, UTM, or UTSC.
In an open letter, student groups (including UTSU), labour unions and academics condemned the closure, saying it was reactionary and unnecessarily impeding on academic life.
The evacuation of Queen’s Park came after a day of protests throughout Toronto. Tear gas was used by Toronto Police for the first time in city history according to Chief Bill Blair, when police positioned at the south end began pressuring people to Queen’s Park North.