Before hundreds of bystanders were corralled into a human blockade at Queen and Spadina under torrential rain, the downtown core had a sense of peacefulness, albeit one that was basically forced down with an iron fist. Yonge and Queen streets, where much of Saturday’s riots happened, were practically deserted at noon. Stores were boarded up or closed, the roads were empty, save the streetcars that were running unusually frequently, and the only people on the sidewalks were police officers guarding every city block, tourists and amateur photographers who were weirdly hoping for a repeat of the previous day.
“Do you know where the stuff is happening?” a young man asks us while texting on his iPhone. “You know, is any windows getting broken and cars and shit? You guys with the cameras must know.”
After telling him that it’s been pretty quiet here, he says, “Man, that was anticlimactic,” and walks away as we hopped on a streetcar.
“It’s like Toronto 15 years ago,” says a TTC driver along the 501 Queen route. “I’ll see one or two cars on the road and that’s it. I guess it makes my job easier.”
Although the sight of a dozen or so officers on every city block was unnerving, many citizens developed a sense of empathy for them after last night’s events as they shared a laugh and chatted with them on the streets. At Yonge and Dundas, a father walking past a cop pointed out to his daughter, “This man is keeping us safe.” Later on Queen West, a woman told a policewoman, “You’re all doing a great job.”
At Queen’s Park, it didn’t seem like anyone was putting up a fight when they were asked to open their bags and show the contents. Both sides were co-operative, the sun was up, and there was nary a sound of a big city. No horns honking, no angry motorists, no pedestrians chatting loudly on their cellphones.