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G20 rioters burn cars, smash windows during violent clashes

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TORONTO — Riot police arrested more than a hundred G20 protesters who rampaged through the city’s downtown core burning police cars and smashing windows on Saturday. A small group of black-clad protesters were surrounded at a downtown intersection around 10 p.m. ET.

A police line in full riot gear began marching at the group, banging their batons on their shields, in hopes of preventing more protesters from moving towards the G20 security fence still located blocks away.

The mood was tense as a small number of protesters yelled obscenities. Helicopters could be heard overhead.

The officers loudly chanted: “Move, move,” as they marched.

One older man was pushed by police out of the way as he was seeking shelter from the pouring rain.

Police were telling everyone to “leave the area,” but few were going.

This surround-and-disperse-the-crowd tactic was used many times by police Saturday.

The day began peacefully but by midafternoon, anarchists hiding within the 10,000 or so protesters stepped things up, hurling objects such as golf balls, burning police cars and smashing windows, then darting away — sometimes to change out of their black garb in an effort to throw police off.

Holding them off were some 5,500 police officers in full riot gear and on horseback who made repeated charges at the rioters in an effort to push them northwards and away from the downtown core where the leaders of the G20 have gathered for their annual summit.

As the night wore on, police continued to make arrests, darting forward into the crowds to grab rioters and pull him them back behind police lines. The Integrated Security Unit confirmed that 130 arrests were made as of 9:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.

At a news conference Saturday night, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said that three police cruisers were destroyed and that tear gas had been used after a warning was issued.

Blair spokesman Mark Pugash told Global News that one rubber bullet was fired on Saturday.

Blair said police have a good idea of who many of the rioters are and promised that "the persons responsible will be held accountable."

Blair said the rioters hid themselves among other protesters as part of their tactics to conduct violence and destruction.

"They deliberately provoked violent confrontation to draw the naive and the curious into their mob mentality. They used their numbers of a mob to avoid detection."

Earlier in the day the rioters burned at least three police cars, vandalized stores and banks and damaged media vehicles.

The crowd cheered when a charred police car was towed away.

While most of the protesters were content to sing, wave placards and dance, a smaller group, estimated at roughly 100, were doing more serious damage, smashing windows at banks and shops in the downtown, as well as attacking two media vehicles.

Dressed in helmets, gas masks and body armour, police appeared to have successfully blocked the protesters from walking down toward the Toronto Convention Centre, the site of the G20 summit.

Toronto Mayor David Miller reacted angrily to the riots.

“I just want to say to Torontonians directly – please stay calm, don’t be disturbed by these images (on TV),” said the mayor.

He said the rioters were “criminals” whose only intent on Saturday was to cause damage and be violent.

“They are criminals and they will be handled by the criminal justice system.”

Dimitri Soudas, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications, condemned the violence.

“Free speech is a principle of our democracy. But the thugs that prompted violence earlier today represent in no way shape or form the Canadian way of life,” Soudas said.

A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, Chris McCluskey, said the minister is being continuously updated “on the destructive and violent activity taking place in downtown Toronto.

“These images are truly shocking to Canadians. Toronto is a world-class city, and the Government of Canada condemns these acts of violence by groups of radical protestors.”

NDP Leader Jack Layton said the peaceful gathering was an important expression of concern about global issues. “The vandalism is criminal and totally unacceptable.”

Blair assured Toronto residents the police will keep their city safe and he said the force is committed to maintaining security for the summit. He said he expects that rioters will continue to cause trouble overnight and on Sunday and that police are ready to act.

He said people are being asked to clear the streets so that rioters cannot hide among them.

"While we are doing this we are endeavoring to respect the rights of all our citizens of lawful peaceful assembly while dealing with criminals who are smashing windows and assaulting people and burning cars."

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