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G20 Summit protesters flash peace signs as they are released from the temporary detention centre on Eastern Ave. in Toronto, Ont on June 27/2010.Kevin Van Paassen

In the largest mass arrests in Canadian history, police arrested roughly 900 people in G20-related incidents during the weekend.

Officers made more than 900 arrests linked to the summit in the past 10 days, Jillian Van Acker, a representative of the G20 Integrated Security Unit, said Monday. However, early on Saturday morning, police said they had arrested a total of 32 people, meaning that close to 900 were arrested during the weekend alone.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association denounced the mass arrests, saying they were illegal and unconstitutional because police did not have reasonable grounds to believe that everyone they detained had committed a crime or was about to do so.

"To us, it's abhorrent that we would be arresting more than 900 people to find maybe 50 or 100 … vandals. This makes no sense. It's a fundamental breach of Canadian law to have done that," said Nathalie Des Rosiers, the organization's general counsel.

Sergeant Gary Phillips said about 100 people continue to be detained inside the temporary detention centre on Eastern Avenue in Toronto's east end. Almost 850 people had been processed through the facility by early Monday afternoon, he said. By contrast, 58 people had been processed by Saturday afternoon.

Constable Michelle Murphy, an ISU spokeswoman, said each person's situation is being considered on a case-by-case basis to decide whether charges will be laid and whether they can be released. "All this takes time," she said.

The arrest figure of more than 900 people includes only those who were taken to the detention centre, not those who were temporarily detained by police, Const. Murphy said. Most people were released without being charged.

Largest mass arrests in Canadian history:

  • 2010 Toronto G20: Roughly 900
  • 1993 Clayoquot Sound logging blockades: 856
  • 1970 October Crisis: 465
  • 2001 Quebec City Summit of the Americas: 463
  • 1981 Toronto bathhouse raids: 286

A group of about ten people sat outside the temporary detention centre on Monday morning, waiting for people to be released. One woman said she'd been waiting since 1 a.m., and had seen about 20 people released since then, most in groups of two or three. By about 9:30 a.m., about five others had been released, each to a round of cheers.

Keith MacDonald, who said he'd been detained for about 18 hours, said he had just stopped by to check things out when he was arrested on Queen Street West and Noble Street in Parkdale on Sunday.

Wearing dark jeans, a dark t-shirt and no shoes, Mr. MacDonald said he was arrested for obstruction of police, but that he was released without charge. He said he suspects he was arrested for wearing a bandana, but said it was on his head, not his face.

He described the inside of the detention centre as "cages" resembling animal kennels, fitting as many as 20 people into the larger ones.

A 15-year-old boy, dressed in an oversized orange t-shirt and cargo pants, said he was arrested Saturday night on the Esplanade and held for 33 hours. The teen, who would only identify himself as Liam, said that he was only there to watch the protest.

"They surrounded us and told us to leave," he said, "but how was I supposed to read the situation?" He said police never once told them how to leave or when the last warning would be before arresting him. He was initially arrested for obstructing the police, he said, but released without being charged.

Questions were raised Monday about the way police handled a group of several hundred protesters and innocent bystanders at the intersection of Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue on Sunday evening. The group was boxed in by riot police for at least three hours in the soaking rain. After several were arrested, the rest were finally allowed to leave at about 10 p.m.

Chief Bill Blair said Monday that the incident happened after police arrested "dozens and dozens" of anarchists with Molotov cocktails and other weapons who were heading to a demonstration on Sunday. However, he said some trouble-makers melted into the rolling protest.

"Unfortunately, their criminal activity was made a lot easier by the complicity of the crowd," he told CP24. "And so we had to contain and control the crowd in an effort to control those criminals."

He said the protesters "had roamed and ranged back and forth across the city in an effort to spread out our resources" to create opportunities for trouble makers to "attack the vulnerabilities of the city."

Chief Blair said police asked people in the area to leave the area three times. Among those boxed in and detained were several journalists. Others have disputed claims that they were given the opportunity to leave.

Mayor David Miller defended the police response Monday, saying officers acted with professionalism. He said police had an "almost impossible" job of allowing peaceful protesters to assemble while sorting out trouble-makers who used rallies as a cover to commit crimes.

"In the very big picture, our police did a commendable job," he told reporters.

Mr. Miller said the city will ask the federal government to compensate businesses that suffered damages or had to close in addition to employees who lost wages because of the summit.

"It's only fair and reasonable," he said.

Following the summit's close on Sunday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper deplored the violence by "certain thuggish criminal element."

Meanwhile, after a weekend of G20-related disruptions, downtown Toronto began to look like its usual self again Monday morning.

Crews began to remove the security fence surrounding the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the site of G20 meetings. However, police continued to maintain a visible presence at downtown street corners.

All TTC transit service was running as usual, a spokesperson said, and Union Station, which closed temporarily Sunday night due to flooding, has since re-opened. GO transit has also resumed normal service. An officer with Toronto Police traffic services said were no major traffic delays or road closures Monday morning.

However, a few traffic disruptions remained early Monday around the security fence area, likely due to fence removal, Const. Murphy said. Police allowed motorists to drive through the area.

Police said the 77 CCTV cameras set up for the G20 will be taken down - it's just not clear when.

Police still have information about upcoming protests, said Integrated Security Unit spokesman Constable Rodney Petroski.

"When they're confident the security risk is over, the cameras will come down."

Along King Street in the heart of Toronto's financial district, there were few signs of the tumultuous weekend. Police remained on some corners and some windows were still boarded up.

By Sunday night, a few stores on Queen Street - which was hit by heavy rioting on Saturday - were still covered in plywood.

With reports from Rick Cash and Anna Mehler Paperny

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