Toronto businesses around Yonge Street spent the past week boarding up windows in advance of anti-racist protest marches on Friday and Saturday.
It appears the major retailers are fearing vandalism or looting after 10 days of protests have swept major U.S. cities in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd on May 25.
Thousands took to the streets in Toronto on May 30 to peacefully demand police accountability after Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a Black woman from Toronto, fell to her death from a balcony while police were in her High Park apartment on May 27.
According to an Instagram post, the organizer of Friday’s I Can’t Breathe Toronto March, which starts at 12:30 pm at Yonge and Bloor, said that the event is peaceful and urged participants to follow COVID-19 public health guidelines, such as physical distancing. The march will head down Yonge to Lake Shore and then up Spadina to Queen and then east to city hall.
“There will be no tolerance for disruptive or aggressive behaviour,” they wrote. “If we truly want change to happen, [the march] will need to be done respectfully. The world is watching.”
According to flyers circulating on social media, two more marches are planned for Saturday, June 6: a 2 pm rally at Nathan Phillips Square and a 2 pm protest march that will begin at Trinity Bellwoods Park and head to Queen’s Park.
Black Lives Matter Toronto and Not Another Black Life, which organized last Saturday’s protest, have stated on social media that they are not involved in either event.
When reporters asked Toronto Police chief Mark Saunders for details police have received ahead of the weekend events on Thursday, he said he did not want to share details.
Workers could be seen sawing wooden boards and covering storefronts on Thursday. Police have also said that they are aware of the protests, but have not advised businesses to prepare for vandalism.
Here’s what Bloor West and Yonge looked like as of Thursday afternoon.