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The Globe and Mail

Queen Street West storefronts fall prey to protesters

G20 summit protesters smash the window of a business front on Queen Street West near Bay Street in downtown Toronto.

Chris Young/Chris Young/The Canadian Press

The crowd that swelled Queen Street West roared when a thin man dressed in black, with a bandana covering his nose and mouth, jumped on a police cruiser and started beating it with a baseball bat. The man was relentless - when he was done, the windows, the lights and the siren were scattered in shards on the street.

By the time the crowd started to thin out, Queen Street West had received the same treatment. Almost all windows were smashed. A Starbucks - ironically the only one in the area that had been open that morning - was completed gutted, its windows cracked and broken. Several CBC vans and some TTC streetcars were similarly vandalized.

A helicopter flew overhead, sirens rang and people banged drums and chanted as they left the area, leaving a sea of broken glass and smoke in their wake.

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"G20! G8! This is a police state!" a group of people yelled over and over.

Nicky Short, 40, sat perched on a stoop a few metres from a police standoff at Queen and John Street. As a man swung from a light pole abover her, Ms. Short said it was the security that was excessive - not the protesting.

"The debate now will be whether this was a good use of money," she said.

A few blocks west, the employees at Bedo clothing boutique sat amongst the mannequins in their display window, watching people just outside the window smash another police cruiser. Once again, the crowd swelled and roared.

Leaning against a convenience store, Les, a man in his 40s who would not give his last name, looked into the mass of people.

"My son is in there," he said, his voice even and calm. His eyes scanned the crowd.

"Everyone complains about the cost of security, but if it helps them, say, find a bomb, isn't it worth it?"

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As riot police swarmed the crowd, a man ran down the sidewalk, dragging a large suitcase behind him. Beside him, a woman in a veil dragged a smaller suitcase and kept an eye on a knee-height boy. They scurried away at the same time as another man got on top of the battered police cruiser.

He lifted the bat over his head and brought it down hard on the front windshield.

Most of the storefronts were vandalized by the time police diffused the crowd on Queen Street. Whether it was broken glass, spray-paint or posters - the protestors who wanted to leave an impression, did.

At 5 p.m. around the corner on Spadina Avenue, a group of about 40 OPP officers in riot gear sat on the sidewalk, legs splayed, black boots turned to either side. They leaned against trees and fire hydrants, sweat pouring down their faces as they took turns resting from the confrontations just up the street.

As sirens pierced the air, the officers were silent.

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