G20 riots erupt in downtown Toronto

Black Bloc members gain national TV exposure

TORONTO -- It wasn't the G20 Summit pictures world leaders wanted as they gathered Saturday in Toronto for a meeting of major industrialized and developing nations.

Canadian news networks offered non-stop breaking news coverage of black-clad demonstrators fighting pitch battles with tactical riot police in the city's downtown core.

As Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper wrapped the G8 Summit in Huntsville, Ontario, TV news crews followed masked figures in Canada's largest city as they attempted to break through police lines and a security fence meant to shield world leaders assembling for the larger G20 Summit.

Earlier in the afternoon, labor groups led a peaceful protest down University Avenue, past the American consulate, before turning westwards onto Queen Street and into Toronto's entertainment district.

But by around 3 p.m., TV cameras zeroed in on a few hundred members of the Black Bloc, a consortium of anarchists that made good on a threat to force their way towards the summit security zone.

As bricks and rocks flew, bank and shop windows were smashed and riot police donned gas masks and formed blockades.

Projectiles were also hurled at production vans belonging to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and CTV, two TV networks with production headquarters within a stone's throw of the security zone.

There were also reports of news photographers being attacked, and their equipment damaged, as they attempted to take photos of the violent confrontation.

By 4 p.m., CNN correspondent Jeanne Meserve went live to point to a window at a Starbucks Coffee house on Queen Street with its storefront glass broken.

A visibly angry Toronto mayor David Miller told the CP24 news channel that rampaging demonstrators had rendered his city unrecognizable.

"People came here deliberately to commit this kind of act," he told the TV audience.

Canadian and foreign news networks attempted to cover the conclusion of the G8 gathering, and the progress of world leaders flying or driving into downtown Toronto for the G20 summit.

But as two police cruisers were set on fire at the corner of King and Bay, in the heart of the city's financial district, breathless TV news reporters and their camera crews moved about the downtown core to capture escalating skirmishes between police and protesters.

For days prior to the start of the G8 and G20 Summits, Canadian news reports were filled with accounts of around 12,000 police from across Canada taking up positions in downtown Toronto ahead of possible violent confrontations with protesters.

TV news channels covered a smaller protest Friday through the streets of downtown Toronto that went off without incident.
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