But our riots aren't a thing of the distant past. In the late-1980s and early '90s, we'd riot every time the Ex closed for the year. We rioted on New Year's Eve to ring in 1992. And then, a few months later, when white cops beat a black man in Los Angeles and were acquitted, we rioted again. As South Central L.A. exploded into flames and destruction, a small group in Toronto protested the Rodney King case outside the U.S. consulate on University. Soon, the crowd had swelled and some turned violent. Something like a thousand people marched up Yonge Street, smashing windows, overturning hot dog carts and generally being destructive assholes. From the footage, it looks like some were even throwing molotov cocktails.
Somehow, that time, the police managed to handle the situation without completely ignoring due process or arresting more people than ever before in the entire history of the country. There were about 30 arrests, a few injuries, and—despite the usual warnings that "we might just see the face of downtown Toronto changing forever"—things got back to normally pretty quickly. So much so that twenty years later most people seem to have forgotten it ever happened.
Here's the Citytv coverage from the day after, complete with painfully punny titles and an adorably young Ben Chin:
Photo: a police car burns on Queen Street West during the G20 (by Adam Bunch)
Adam Bunch is the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post originally appeared on the Toronto Dreams Project Historical Ephemera Blog, which tells stories about the history of Toronto. You can read more highlights from it here, or visit it yourself here.