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The G20 fence

No mere barricade Add to ...

At an estimated cost of $5.5-million, the security fence in downtown Toronto is no mere barricade. From its cost to its construction, the perimeter has become a symbol of the city's G20 summit security, a dividing line between the people and the leaders who will gather in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this weekend.

What the officials say

A government tender posted earlier this year estimated the length of the fence at one to two kilometres, and said the project would cost $4-million. The job went to SNC-Lavalin, a Montreal-based engineering and construction firm that referred all questions about the fence to the federal public works department. The Integrated Security Unit has declined to offer detailed information about the fence for "security concerns," but it is known that the fence's length has stretched to more than six kilometres. It runs along Wellington Street and loops south around the Rogers Centre, encompassing the convention centre, as well as the CBC, various office towers and one residential building at 33 University Avenue. Three metres high, the fence is anchored with hundreds of 800-kilogram concrete barriers, 12 kilometres of metal tubing and more than 100,000 drilled bolts.

What the experts say

On Wellington Street, the fence is constructed from chain link, similar to the kind used during the Molson Indy. But closer to the convention centre, it is made from expanded metal, which is noticeably smoother and tighter, impossible to even get a finger through. Security experts say the use of expanded metal means the fence is designed to thwart climbers. "You certainly wouldn't be able to climb it and nothing's going to go through it," said Garry Thompson, construction manager at McGowan Fence and Supply. "I don't know of anything more effective than expanded metal." The material is more expensive than chain link, he added, and is often used in correctional facilities and in border-security operations. It's almost impossible to cut and, even if it is severed, the metal won't unravel like woven chain.

What the demonstrators say

"It's a manifestation of the over-the-top security in Toronto," said Dylan Penner, of the Council of Canadians. "All of these security measures are calling into question whether our right to protest is still intact. Along with the water cannon and the sound cannon, the fence is being used to intimidate people out of demonstrating." The Integrated Security Unit has said that no one will be allowed inside the security fence from Thursday evening through Saturday without two pieces of photo ID and a valid reason for entry. But protesters plan to assemble at the perimeter on Saturday afternoon for a "Get off the Fence" event.

What the public is saying

With construction of the fence beginning on June 7, the longest lasting effect on the city has been traffic. Wes Posthumus, property manager of 33 University, said residents have also had difficulty accessing the building and have been prevented from reaching their underground parking. "The police on point seemed to have little knowledge that ours is a residential building and were not helpful in the least," he said. Police have been questioning anyone taking a picture of the fence, and several people have reported being made to erase their photographs. On Twitter, freelance journalist Zach Bussey reported: "Just got detained for 30 minutes because I took a picture of the G20 fence at University and Wellington. Feeling violated."

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