Toronto puts finishing touches on G20 preparation

Tue Jun 15, 2010 2:12pm EDT
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By Pav Jordan and Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ten days before world leaders arrive for two international summits, a ring of steel and concrete is slowly sealing off the center of Toronto, offering a secure bubble in case peaceful protests get out of hand.

The fence, with tight links of hard steel atop heavy concrete barriers, is part of a $1 billion security plan to shield leaders from clashes like the 1999 "Battle of Seattle" that disrupted trade talks there, or tear gas heavy protests when Canada hosted the Summit of the Americas in 2001.

"All I know is that I am going to have to cross three security checkpoints to get to my job, and then there's the protesters," said Dave, a chef at a bar and bistro inside the Toronto security zone where leaders will meet.

"As soon as one of them (protesters) throws something at me or acts up, I'm going home," he said as he smoked a cigarette a few feet from the fence.

The first meeting, of the Group of Eight industrialized countries, starts outside Toronto on June 24. Toronto, Canada's largest city, hosts a summit of the Group of 20 rich and developing countries from June 26-27, with finance ministers, central bankers and dozens of guests also invited.

But meetings like these are always controversial, and a host of groups argue that the leaders are trying to fix a broken financial system that already oppresses the poor.

Most groups say their protests will not be violent, but they admit anarchists often provoke clashes with police, and that's the reason for the fence.

"Our goal is to ensure the summit is safe for the public and for the leaders," Police Inspector Art Pittman told a recent news briefing. "I am confident that we will succeed."   Continued...

<p>Workers prepare a security fence for the upcoming G20 summit in front of the CN Tower in Toronto, June 7, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>