TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadians got a taste this week of how far activists might go to protest against next month’s G20 summit in Toronto, with the firebombing of a local bank branch in the nation’s capital.
Police are still investigating the attack on a Royal Bank of Canada branch in Ottawa, which may have been the work of an anarchist group protesting against the June G8 and G20 gatherings.
A special task force in charge of security for the international summits is monitoring the investigation into Tuesday’s early morning fire, which caused an estimated C$500,000 in damages and left the bank’s glass storefront broken and blackened.
“We are certainly monitoring the situation to see if there’s any kind of potential threat for the G8 or G20,” said Julie Morel, a spokeswoman for the special task force, which is made up from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Toronto Police Service and other security and law enforcement partners.
“The Integrated Security Unit is monitoring any potential threat to the G8 and G20 summit and of course we are prepared to deal with any possible threats.”
Finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20 major economies will meet from June 26 through June 27 in Toronto, where national and local police will cordon off the downtown financial district as a security measure.
Prior to that, Canada will host the G8 summit of industrialized countries in Huntsville, Ontario, a small town 205 km (130 miles) north of Toronto.
Protesters have planned demonstrations against both summits, starting on June 21, and ranging from marches to all-night street parties.
“In June we will be on the streets and we will shut them down and show them our power,” Farrah Miranda, leading a group called No One is Illegal, said at a media briefing in Toronto on Thursday.
“The struggle will continue in June on the streets of Toronto.”
Nine groups held the briefing under the banner of the G8/G20 Toronto Community Mobilization Network, which is co-ordinating the protest efforts.
Activists say they have no plans for violent protests, but they do plan to make as much noise as they can and have been canvassing Toronto’s marginalized neighborhoods for months to join in demands for social justice for a variety of groups.
The group declined comment on the Ottawa firebomb attack, which damaged the bank property but caused no injuries.
“Thankfully no staff or clients were harmed in this incident,” Royal Bank said in a statement.
“We are not going to comment on the group that has claimed responsibility or respond to the inflammatory statements of those who use violence to communicate their views.”
A group calling itself FFFC-Ottawa, claimed responsibility for the attack in an online video, saying it struck at Royal Bank because it was a major sponsor of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The group said it would be at the G8 and G20 summits.
Police could not confirm the identity of the attackers.
Protesters are expected to target big corporations during the June demonstrations, with the Royal Bank possibly coming under fire as Canada’s largest lender and as a top banker to the oil sands, an industry criticized by environmentalists as a major source of pollution and greenhouse gases.
Reporting by Pav Jordan; editing by Rob Wilson