Toronto’s G20 Summit and My Experience as a Reporter

It has already been five years since the city of Toronto was submerged into the chaos known as the G20 summit. This convention of political leaders from 20 countries led to unlawful arrests, kettles conducted by authorities and a lot of waste of taxpayer money. All for what? So President Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper can have a photo-op with their counterparts?

A lot has happened since that unforgettable weekend, both for the city and for myself. Toronto has had two mayors; I’ve gotten married to a beautiful dame and moved to a new, better apartment.

As a reporter on the ground the entire weekend, I shan’t forget what transpired from the Eastern Avenue detention centres to the kettling on Spadina Avenue.

It was my first major assignment as a professional journalist at the time covering the event for Digital Journal. I was equipped with my two cameras, tape recorder, a flip phone and a bag full of food so I wouldn’t have to stop for anything. I will concede that I was overwhelmed and flummoxed because I was a rookie reporter trying to collect the best footage. I always look back on that weekend and think: “I could have done more.”

G20 Summit

A Rundown of the Weekend

On the Saturday of the G20 summit, I woke up early and immediately headed downtown. The day started off pretty quiet but then as time went by protesters started to vandalize shops, demonstrators began to be detained by police and cars were smashed up and set on fire. It was incredible witness because hardly anything ever happens to this city. I later walked to Spadina Avenue, the infamous kettling spot. I was in it and it was uncomfortable, to say the least.

Although I got a lot of photos and videos, nothing really happened to me. The biggest confrontation for me was when I was standing on Queen Street eating my pretzels and this barrage of officers in riot gear aggressively pushed me against the wall and began to yell at me: “Get back! Get back now!” Again, more vandalism later occurred.

On the Sunday of the G20 summit, I headed to Eastern Avenue, where a major march and protest were going to take place in front of the detention centre. It was peaceful, we interviewed those exiting the jails and people were having a good time. However, undercover police entered the scene and started to arrest people, who were thrown into unmarked vans. Tear gas was thrown so people would be prompted to leave the area.

I left the scene prematurely so I missed the tear gas (unfortunately). I left the area because I had to start uploading the footage to Digital Journal’s CMS and begin writing my report – as a determined journalist I wanted to get the breaking news first. For the rest of the day, I took pictures of the damage and the aftermath. My partner at the time, Mrs. KJ Mullins, to my recollection, did the behind the scenes stuff and attended press conferences and spoke with Torontonians who abstained from the demonstrations. Her work was an asset to DJ.

Police vehicle on fire

Final Thoughts

Overall, it’s a time that I’ll never forget. The flames, the chaos and the governmental overreach will always be a sad time in our city’s history. With the bad comes the good: it helped launch my journalism career. For three years after that event, I covered election campaigns, interviewed public officials, attended press conferences and media events and a whole bunch of other things I will always relish and look back on with great pleasure.

I don’t do much on-the-scene stuff anymore because now I’m making more money doing freelance stuff and I’ve gotten used to eating. However, I sometimes on occasion envy on-the-ground reporters covering the stories of the day. Journalism is a great career to be in, as long as you’re content with not eating a couple of days a week!

I’m posting some videos and links to articles I did at the time:

Vandalism engulfs the city of Toronto during G20 Summit

Toronto on lockdown, vandalism rampant during G20 protest

G20 Detainee: We were put into cages, sat on concrete floor

Unmarked Toronto police make mass arrests at peaceful G20 rally

Naomi Klein to Toronto police force: ‘Do your goddamn jobs’

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