TORONTO (AP) — Black-clad demonstrators broke off from a crowd of peaceful demonstrators protesting a global economic summit in Toronto, torching police cruisers and smashing windows with baseball bats and hammers.
Police with shields and clubs earlier pushed back another small group of demonstrators who tried to head south toward the security fence surrounding the perimeter of the Group of 20 summit site. Some demonstrators hurled bottles at police.
“This isn’t our Toronto and my response is anger,” Toronto Mayor David Miller told CP24 television. “Every Torontonian should be outraged by this.”
The roving band of protesters in black balaclavas shattered shop windows for blocks, including at police headquarters, then shed some of their black clothes, revealing other garments, and continued to rampage through downtown Toronto.
Protesters torched at least two police cruisers in different parts of the city, including one in the heart of the city’s financial district.
Police in riot gear and riding bikes formed a blockade, keeping protesters from approaching the security fence a few blocks south of the march route. Police closed a stretch of Toronto’s subway system along the protest route and the largest shopping mall downtown closed after the protest took a turn for the worse.
A media bus taking photographers and cameramen to a hotel where the G-20 leaders will have dinner was turned back after police deemed it unsafe.
Dozens of police officers later boxed in a number of protesters from both sides of a street in a shopping district. The protesters encouraged the media to film it and they sang ‘O Canada’, Canada’s national anthem, before being allowed to disperse.
At another location at the provincial legislature police also boxed in demonstrators before tackling some and making arrests.
A stream of police cars headed to Toronto to reinforce security there after the smaller Group of Eight summit ended in Huntsville, Ontario. The vandalism occurred just blocks from where President Barack Obama and other world leaders were meeting and staying.
“These images are truly shocking to Canadians,” Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement. “We are taking all measures necessary to ensure Canadians, delegates, media and international visitors remain safe.”
Previous major world summits also have attracted massive, raucous and sometimes destructive protests by anti-globalization forces.
As of Saturday afternoon, 40 summit-related arrests had been since June 18, police said, with security being provided by an estimated 19,000 law enforcement officers drawn from all regions of Canada. The security costs are estimated at more than US$900 million.
Saturday’s protest march, sponsored by labor unions and dubbed family friendly, was the largest demonstration planned during the weekend summits. Its organizers had hoped to draw a crowd of 10,000, but only about half that number turned out on what was a rainy day.
Toronto Police Sgt. Tim Burrows said before Saturday’s protest that authorities were pleased by the demonstrators’ orderly behavior. Hundreds of protesters moved through Toronto’s streets Friday, but police in riot gear intercepted them, preventing them from getting near the summit security zone downtown.
Ontario’s provincial government quietly passed a regulation earlier this month allowing police to arrest anyone who refuses to show identification or submit to searches if they come within five meters (five yards) of a security fence.
Toronto’s downtown resembles a fortress, with a big steel and concrete fence protecting the summit site.
Previous global summit protests have turned violent. In 1999, 50,000 protesters shut down World Trade Organization sessions in Seattle as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. There were some 600 arrests and $3 million in property damage. One man died after clashes with police at a G-20 meeting held in London in April 2009.
At the September G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, police fired canisters of pepper spray and smoke and rubber bullets at marchers.
by Brad Schaeffer
General strikes in Greece have brought much of the country to a halt as trade unions and government workers stage more protests over austerity measures. A 24-hour work stoppage last week closed much of the country’s public sector and shut down ferries, trains and public transport.
So here is one unfunded social utopia’s score card so far: Three have died already this month in massive riots in the streets of Athens which are in danger of re-erupting anew. Paralyzing strikes from civil servants, so used to getting so much largess for doing so little for so long. A $145 billion bailout is in jeopardy with the big dogs of the EU, Germany chief among them, expressing serious concerns that the austerity measures demanded of Greece as a condition to merit the loans will ever come to fruition. Given the revised deficit projections and a public that seems unwilling to admit that their free ride brand of socialism as expressed in a financially unsustainable pension structure is collapsing, who can blame Europe?
Greece is bankrupt. Their debt is 108% of GDP and will climb to almost 150% by 2013 when the bailout loans would come due. 25% of Greek taxes will go to service its debt — to mostly foreign investors. Currently that nation’s government spending amounts to 50% of its GDP.
Consider then that in 2009 US debt was 86% of GDP and climbing. It will go past 100% by 2012. 20% of U.S. federal taxes go to service the interest on the national debt. That number too will rise. Our major social entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, are bankrupt. We are waging foreign wars almost entirely on our own—so that Europe doesn’t have to. And now we have just enacted the mother of all entitlements in Obamacare that only the most wishful of thinkers (or a cynical Democratic Congress and White House) would argue is anything but a multi-trillion dollar debt dog pile on top of an already strained budget.
Of course our gargantuan economy is much more vibrant, diverse and robust than Greece’s. But we are already seeing within our borders mini-Greeces popping up at the state level. 41 states currently face budget shortfalls and the effects are already being felt. Here in New Jersey, school districts have suffered state aid cuts of 95%. (And in a little taste of the new entitlement mentality, our teachers’ union insisted on ramming through a contractually obligated pay raise anyway that would benefit the union bosses most of all; Trenton’s financial woes be damned. So to make the numbers work, several teachers and other staff got the axe—fortunately without any rioting.)
What is currently unfolding on the chaotic streets of Athens is an immovable force of a deep-seeded entitlement culture unwilling to give up its government goodies standing up to the irresistible force of simple mathematics. Care to bet on what side will ultimately prevail?
I am not saying that the United States is making the exact mistakes as the Greeks. But we are on a parallel course in that we are spending more on government programs than we are taking in in revenue. So whereas Greece is collapsing under the weight of unfunded pensions and ridiculously generous retirement packages and entitlements, while at the same time suffering a shrinking tax base, we have our own issues as I said before with Social Security (bankrupt seven years earlier than predicted just two years ago), Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare.
Edwin LeFevre once wrote that:
“A man, if he is both wise and lucky, will not make the same mistake twice. But he will make any one of the ten thousand brothers and cousins of the original mistake.”
As we watch the inevitable fissures in European style socialism breaking wide open for all to see, this is a most propitious time to turn inward and ask ourselves if the model that American left seems so stubbornly intent on replicating here even works, let alone is best for our nation? The Tea Partiers are but one expression of this necessary dialog — shameful left-wing race-baiting notwithstanding. Ponzi schemes always come to the same dismal end, leaving some poor unfortunates to pay the bill.
I would just like to know what makes liberal Democrats think that the inevitable reality of a seriously flawed socio-economic dogma now violently on display in the streets of Athens (and poised to spread throughout Europe) will somehow pass us by if we follow the same path? And if we continue down their road who do they believe will bail us out when the bill comes?
BANGKOK — Downtown Bangkok turned into a flaming battleground Wednesday as an army assault toppled an anti-government group’s leadership, enraging followers who fired grenades and set numerous fires that cloaked the skyline in black smoke.
Using live ammunition, troops dispersed thousands of Red Shirt protesters who had been camped in the capital’s premier shopping and residential district for weeks. Four protesters and an Italian news photographer were killed in the ensuing gunbattles and about 60 wounded.
After Red Shirt leaders gave themselves up to police, rioters set fires at the Stock Exchange, several banks, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Electricity Authority, the Central World, one of Asia’s biggest shopping malls, and a cinema that burned to ground. There were reports of looting.
Thick smoke drifted across the sky of this city of 10 million people. Firefighters retreated after protesters shot guns at them.
The chaos in Bangkok in the wake of the two-month protest will deepen the severe impact dealt to the economy and tourism industry of Thailand, a key U.S. ally and long considered one of the more stable countries in Southeast Asia. The Red Shirts had demanded the ouster of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government, the dissolution of Parliament and new elections.
The government declared an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in Bangkok, and said army operations would continue through the night.
“Tonight is going to be another worrisome night,” government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.
It also imposed a partial media blackout on local TV stations, saying all of them will have to air government-prepared bulletins.
“They might be able to show their regular news programs. But we are concerned about their live broadcasts from the scenes,” Panitan said. “There will be more (government) programs … to be shown simultaneously by all stations,” he said.
Protesters turned their rage on the local media, which they have accused of pro-government coverage. They attacked the offices of state-run Channel 3, setting fire to cars outside and puncturing water pipes that flooded the building.
“At Channel 3 need urgent help from police, soldiers!!!” tweeted news anchor Patcharasri Benjamasa. “News cars were smashed and they are about to invade the building.”
Hours later its building was on fire. Its executives were evacuated by helicopter and police rescued other staff. The English-language Bangkok Post newspaper evacuated its staff after threats from the Red Shirts. A large office building down the street from the Post was set afire.
Unrest also spread to the rural northeast of the country, where Red Shirts, who claim Abhisit’s government is elitist and oblivious to their plight, retain strong support.
Local media reported protesters set fire to government offices in the city of Udon Thani and vandalized a city hall in Khon Kaen. Udon Thani’s governor asked the military to intervene. TV images also showed troops retreating after being attacked by mobs in Ubon Ratchathani.
Cabinet minister Satit Vongnongteay described the chaos as anticipated “aftershocks.”
“There are violent-prone protesters who remain angry,” Satit told a news conference.
At least 44 people have been killed, most of them civilians, in a week of violence in Bangkok as a military attempt to blockade the protesters — who had camped in the 1-square-mile (3-square-kilometer) Rajprasong district for six weeks — instead touched off street fighting, with soldiers firing on protesters who fought back mostly with homemade weapons.
The final crackdown began soon after dawn Wednesday, as hundreds of troops armed with M-16s converged on the Red Shirt base in Rajprasong, where high-end malls and hotels have been shuttered by the prolonged protest.
Armored vehicles crashed through barricades of piled tires and bamboo stakes, then soldiers gradually moved toward the protesters’ hub, opening fire and drawing return fire from militant Red Shirts, Associated Press journalists saw.
Bullets flew overhead and several grenades exploded near the soldiers, forcing them to pull back and take cover briefly before pushing forward. A Canadian freelance reporter was injured by grenade shrapnel. Two other journalists were wounded earlier, one Dutch man and an American documentary filmmaker. An Italian photographer was killed.
With no hope of resisting the military’s advance, seven top Red Shirt leaders turned themselves in on Wednesday afternoon, saying they cannot see their supporters — women and children among them — being killed anymore.
“Brothers and sisters, I’m sorry I cannot see you off the way I welcomed you all when you arrived here. But please be assured that our hearts will always be with you,” Nattawut Saikua, a key leader, said as he was being arrested.
“Please return home,” he said.
By mid-afternoon, the army announced it had gained control of the protest zone and the operations had ended — nine hours after troops launched the pre-dawn assault.
“Police officers and soldiers have now stopped their operation,” army spokesman Col. Sansern Kawekamnerd said.
BANGKOK (AP) — Thai troops fired bullets at anti-government protesters and explosions thundered in the heart of Bangkok on Friday as an army push to clear the streets and end a two-month political standoff sparked clashes that have killed five and wounded 81.
As night fell, booming explosions and the sound of gunfire rattled around major intersections in the central business district. Local TV reported that several grenades hit a shopping center and elevated-rail station. Plumes of black smoke hung over the neighborhood as tires burned in eerily empty streets while onlookers ducked for cover.
Among those wounded were two Thai journalists and a Canadian reporter, who was in a serious condition.
With security deteriorating and hopes of a peaceful resolution to the standoff increasingly unlikely, what was once one of Southeast Asia’s most stable democracies and magnets of foreign investment has been thrust deep into political uncertainty. The crisis threatens its stability, economy and already-decimated tourism industry.
Violence escalated after a rogue army general regarded as a military adviser to the Red Shirt protesters was shot in the head Thursday evening, possibly by a sniper. A doctor said Maj. Gen. Khattiya Sawasdiphol was still in a coma Friday and he could “die at any moment.”
Thai troops fired bullets at anti-government protesters and explosions thundered in the heart of Bangkok as an army push to clear the streets and end a two-month political standoff sparked clashes that have killed three and wounded 69.
Clashes since then have killed five and wounded 81, officials said.
“We are being surrounded. We are being crushed. The soldiers are closing in on us. This is not a civil war yet, but it’s very, very cruel,” Weng Tojirakarn, a protest leader, told The Associated Press.
Fighting has now killed 34 people and injured hundreds since the Red Shirts, mostly rural poor, began camping in the capital on March 12, in a bid to force out Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. They claim his coalition government came to power illegitimately through manipulation of the courts and the backing of the powerful military, which in 2006 forced the populist premier favored by the Red Shirts, Thaksin Shinawatra, from office in a coup.
Last week, Abhisit offered November elections, raising hopes that a compromise could be reached with the Red Shirts, who have been demanding immediate elections. Those hopes were dashed after Red Shirt leaders made more demands.
Late Thursday, the army moved to seal off the Red Shirt encampment in an upscale commercial district of the capital. Some 10,000 protesters, women and children among them, have crammed into the area.
“Our policy is not to disperse the protesters,” government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said late Friday. He said their mission was to set up checkpoints and “tighten” the area around the protest, but “there have been attempts to agitate the officers.”
In later speech on national TV, Panitan said security forces hadn’t entered the demonstration area but were attacked and forced to protect themselves.
He said security efforts would be stepped up in the coming days and “many areas would be under control soon.” As he said that a large explosion rang out in central Bangkok.
Friday’s violence was initially centered on a small area home to several foreign embassies, including those of the U.S. and Japan which were forced to close, but by midafternoon had spread around the 1-square-mile (3-square-kilometer) protest zone barricaded with bamboo stakes and tires. The British, New Zealand and the Dutch embassies, which are in the vicinity, also were shut.
Soldiers crouched behind a raised road divider in one area and fired rubber bullets, live ammunition and tear gas shells. Army vehicles were seen speeding on deserted streets littered with stones and debris. Protesters retreated and hurled rocks and insults.
Among Friday’s casualties, a Thai cameraman from the VoiceTV news website was shot in his left thigh and a photographer for Matichon newspaper was shot in the leg, the news outlets said.
Canadian freelance journalist Nelson Rand, who was working for France 24 news channel, was hit by three bullets, the channel reported. One bullet perforated his leg, another hit his abdomen, another hit his wrist. He underwent surgery and was recovering.
Friday morning, protesters captured and vandalized two military water cannon trucks at a key intersection in the business district, just outside the Red Shirt encampment. They ripped the cannon from its moorings and used its plastic barrel to shoot firecrackers from behind a sandbag bunker they had commandeered from soldiers.
They later set fire to a police bus that sent thick plumes of smoke into the sky. Soldiers fired automatic rifles repeatedly.
Soldiers used a loudspeaker to send a message to the Red Shirts: “We are the people’s army. We are just doing our duty for the nation. Brothers and sisters, let’s talk together.”
But a group of aggressive young protesters approached them on motorcycles and on foot, shouting obscenities. Two soldiers fired shotguns into the air and they pulled back but kept up their abuse.
Major roads around the protest site were closed to traffic, and the city’s subway and elevated train shut early. Many shops in the capital also were shuttered.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Kornvika Klinpraneat, 28, a worker at a mini-mart near the protest area. “This is like a civil war. The battle is being fought in the middle of a city with innocent people being injured and killed.”
The renegade army general Khattiya, who is accused of creating a paramilitary force for the Red Shirts, was shot in the head while talking to reporters just inside the perimeter of the protesters’ encampment. Director of the hospital treating him, Dr. Chaiwan Charoenchokthawee, said Friday that Khattiya “could die at any moment.”
It was not known who shot Khattiya, better known by the nickname Seh Daeng. But the Red Shirts blamed a government sniper.
“This is illegal use of force ordered by Abhisit Vejjajiva,” said Arisman Pongruengrong, a Red Shirt leader. “Seh Daeng was shot by a government sniper. This is clearly a use of war weapons on the people.”
The army denied it tried to kill Khattiya.
“It has nothing to do with the military. It has never been our policy (to assassinate). We have been avoiding violence,” said Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, an army spokesman. Only a forensic investigation will determine who was behind the shooting, he said.
The two-day clashes marked the worst continuous episode of violence since April 10, when 25 people were killed and more than 800 injured in clashes between Red Shirts and troops in Bangkok’s historic area. Sporadic clashes have occurred since then.
The Red Shirts see Abhisit’s government as serving an elite insensitive to the plight of most Thais. The protesters include many supporters of former prime minister Thaksin whose allies won elections in 2007 after his ouster. Two subsequent pro-Thaksin governments were disbanded by court rulings before Abhisit was elected by Parliament.
Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire who fled overseas to avoid a corruption conviction, has publicly encouraged the protests and is widely believed to be helping bankroll them. He claims to be a victim of political persecution.
Associated Press writers Vijay Joshi, Jocelyn Gecker, Denis D. Gray and Chris Blake contributed to this report. Additional research by Warangkana Tempati.