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Hundreds of people take part in a rally to mark the one-year anniversary of the G20 riots in Toronto on Saturday, June 25, 2011. (Pat Hewitt/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Hundreds of people take part in a rally to mark the one-year anniversary of the G20 riots in Toronto on Saturday, June 25, 2011. (Pat Hewitt/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

One year after G20 riots, hundreds march in Toronto Add to ...

Hundreds of people marked the one-year anniversary of the G20 summit and its mass arrests by rallying at the Ontario legislature and marching through city streets in what felt like a gentler flashback.

The rally was peaceful, a stark contrast to last June's riot that saw police cars set ablaze and store windows smashed. Some demonstrators hoisted banners and signs such as "Canada is not a police state" and "Public inquiry now." Others brought their babies in strollers.

Civil rights activists, student groups and labour leaders renewed their call for both a public inquiry into police actions at last year's summit and for the resignation of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair.

The speakers noted that Saturday's rally was held at the same site where a year earlier, police had moved in on protesters at what had been designated as a safe protest site.

John Pruyn, an amputee whose artificial leg was ripped off by police while he was arrested at a summit protest, stood before the crowd and asked why police haven't returned his eyeglasses and walking sticks.

But the person who stole the show was 21-year-old Brigette DePape, the page who lost her job for holding a sign that read "Stop Harper" in the Senate during this month's throne speech. Ms. DePape was greeted like a rock star by the noisy crowd as she took to the microphone.

"My name is Brigette. Some of you may know me as the rogue page," she said as the crowd whistled its approval.

She brought her "stop Harper" message with her, saying the real threat to Canadians' security is Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative "austerity agenda" that includes social service and environmental cuts, Ms. DePape said.

"That security threat stripped us of our civil liberties and illegally rounded up more than 1,000 of us," she added.

Last June, the police arrested more than a thousand people during the G20 protests but most were released without being charged or had their charges withdrawn or dismissed.

Afterward in an interview, Ms. DePape said she had attended the G20 protests in Toronto and she was inspired by the turnout back then, and at Saturday's rally.

"I think it's very clear, real power is in the streets, real power is not in Parliament," she said.

The prime minister is undermining Canadians' right to protest, she said. If the public keeps up the pressure for an inquiry, it will get one, because justice hasn't been done, Ms. DePape said.

Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan repeated a call for Chief Blair to identify officers who beat citizen protesters. Chief Blair should step down, said Mr. Ryan.

Author Judy Rebick said it was the prime minister who decided to hold the summit in Toronto and he should shoulder the blame for the riot that saw police cars burned and shop windows smashed. Thirty-nine protesters reported being injured during the arrests while 97 officers were hurt in the riot.

An inquiry is needed not for retribution but to get at the truth of police actions at the summit and hold police and politicians accountable, speakers from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Federation of Students and Council of Canadians said.

After the rally, several hundred protesters marched through downtown streets waving large Canadian flags, white balloons and signs. They halted traffic and shouted "our streets." It was a scene reminiscent of the G20 protests a year earlier.

Two dozen of the protesters sat in the intersection at Queen Street and Spadina Avenue where a year earlier, protesters were hemmed in by police who used a technique known as kettling. They then marched on police headquarters as they chanted "drop the charges, charge the police" on blowhorns, calling for all remaining charges against G20 protesters to be dropped.

Soap bubbles wafted into the air as protesters asked where Officer Bubbles was - a reference to a Toronto constable who threatened to arrest a G20 protester for blowing bubbles during last year's protests.

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