Tamils Take to the Gardiner
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Tamils Take to the Gardiner


Top photo by Miles Storey/Torontoist; bottom photo by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.

Not long before dusk on Sunday night, several thousand Tamil protesters flowed onto the Gardiner Expressway, shutting it down shortly thereafter, to protest the ongoing violence in Sri Lanka. The Gardiner would remain shut down until about midnight, when the protest migrated off the roads and on to Queen’s Park.
Torontoist’s coverage—complete with on-the-scene photos from our photographers, and wrapping up just after 3:30 a.m.—continues after the fold.

8:24 p.m.—Members of Toronto’s Tamil community have taken a page from Critical Mass’ books, and have effectively shut down the Gardiner Expressway; Toronto Police are now saying that “It is likely that the Gardiner Expressway will remain closed through the evening” [PDF]. Torontoist is on the scene now; according to photographer Nick Kozak, the protest is taking place near the Spadina on-ramp.
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Tamils on the Gardiner Expressway, May 10 2009
Photos by neilta from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

9:01 p.m.—Torontoist’s Miles Storey and Nick Kozak are both on the Gardiner now, but Neil Ta (a member of Torontoist’s Flickr Pool) took the shots above from the balcony of his condo, at Bathurst and Queens Quay. More are in his Flickr set.

9:41 p.m.—And here’s an unbelievable video of the crowd rushing the Gardiner. (Hat tip to Dave Meslin.)
9:53 p.m.—Photographer Miles Storey is just getting back from the scene now; he says that, in the time he was there, and in spite of earlier news reports (from outlets like the Post) of assaults on police officers, he saw “no signs of any violence.” There’s some chanting, but it’s “like any other Tamil protest so far”: well-organized, a mix of families and individuals, and plenty of calm (like people drinking tea) amidst it all.
9:55 p.m.—Police Chief William Blair is expected to give a news conference at 10:30. David Miller, meanwhile, has issued a statement saying that “Toronto’s Tamil community is understandably concerned about what is happening to friends and family in Sri Lanka. They have an absolute right to make those concerns known and to protest. Endangering public safety by occupying the Gardiner or other public highways is not the right way to make that statement.”
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Photos by Miles Storey/Torontoist.

10:02 p.m.—And here are a few of Miles Storey’s photos from right in the thick of it.

10:20 p.m.—The reaction to the protest on Twitter has been mixed, but, like all things Twitter, curt and angry is winning over calm and measured—even, apparently, for organizations like radio station Energy FM, which should maybe consider finding someone new to man their Twitter.
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Photos by Miles Storey/Torontoist.

10:50 p.m.—A few more photos from Miles Storey.
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11:08 p.m.—And here’s a dramatic set of photos showing, in sequence, how the on-ramp fell out of police hands and into Tamil ones. (Hat tip to Spacing; photos used with permission.)
11:40 p.m.—We’ve got more photos, from Torontoist’s Nick Kozak, on the way, but while we wait, a quick recap of news coverage from the city’s mainstream outlets: The Globe, CityNews, Star, CBC, and National Post. (It goes without saying, but all those outlets allowing comments have hundreds of them.) The Post also has a full transcript of Bill Blair’s press conference earlier tonight. Most sources peg the number of protestors as ranging from two to three thousand, though that number dwindled after sunset, especially as families headed home, according to our Miles Storey.
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Photos by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.

12:00 a.m.—And here are Nick Kozak’s photos.
12:11 a.m.According to CP24, protesters are now “dispersing…Organizers tell CP24 that they spoke with Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff’s office and that he promised to bring up the issue with caucus and look at economic sanctions. The protesters say they are satisfied and are moving toward Queen’s Park. ”
12:20 a.m.Chris Drost, a friend of Torontoist’s and another photographer on the scene (who’s stayed with the protest for the bulk of the night, and whose photos we may soon feature) says that the move off the Gardiner has been “peaceful.” We’re going to hop over to Queen’s Park shortly to see what’s going on there, before we call it a night.

Photos by David Topping/Torontoist.

2:15 a.m.—There are at least a few hundred protesters gathered in Queen’s Park, more and more dense the further south you go; some are chanting, lots eating, most looking and sounding more than a little tired. Queen’s Park Crescent, which runs alongside the park, is filled with parked cars—of protesters and of the many, many police officers, who have lined the perimeter of the southernmost end of the park, where most of the crowd has gathered. When one pack of about eight protesters left from the larger group, we saw an officer walk them across the several lanes of street, south, to safety. One protester turned back to the cop and said, a little jokingly, “see you tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, the Toronto Police Service have announced that the Gardiner is now back open in both directions, and that “during the demonstration, three people were arrested and charged with Assault Peace Officer and Mischief Interfere with Property.”
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Photos by Chris Drost.

3:32 a.m.—And here are another set of photos from Chris Drost, who captured the Tamils’ move off the Gardiner earlier tonight, before the protest worked its way to Queen’s Park. Drost tells Torontoist:

One thing that struck me odd was how peaceful things got—protesters sat
down and chanted and drank their tea and Timmies. A constant supply was being brought up, while empty Timmie cups were transformed into candle holders (there were a few cup fires). Those little kids there are gonna be wiped tomorrow.
Cops did a great job keeping the peace—at one point things started to get a bit rowdy and it looked like cops were suiting up but someone managed to quell matters and then the rumour that someone in Ottawa was listening was enough to clear the decks. The riot cops moved in formation and slowly forced everyone, media included, off the highway.
Another odd note: the Tamil protesters pulled out garbage bags and started to clean up after themselves…when they tried to hop over to the eastbound lanes, the cops said: “Thanks but no need; we’ll take care of it for you.”

We’ll leave it at that for tonight.