Online rumours claiming bricks left out for Toronto protests are misleading

Rumours of bricks supposedly left out to encourage protesters to commit violence swirled on social media ahead of a planned march against anti-black racism Friday in Toronto. 

The online rumours have sprung up after similar posts circulated in the United States, where thousands of people across the country have been out protesting the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody last month.

Many of the U.S. posts have been debunked by Buzzfeed here

However, as Toronto prepared for two planned protests over the weekend, and stores downtown boarded up windows, rumours of placed bricks gained steam online.

“There are pallets of bricks being left all over downtown Toronto in hopes that protesters throw them so police have an excuse to shoot,” wrote one Twitter user on Thursday evening.

Two piles of bricks spotted on Toronto’s Queen St. W. near Ossington Ave. were a source of misleading information.

Posts circulated on multiple platforms showing the bricks on pallets next to the street, with warnings they had been placed to bait protesters.

But Dan Welch, the owner of Garb Consignment on Queen St. W., says he saw the bricks unloaded onto the sidewalk Thursday from a forklift and they stayed there for about an hour before being brought into the building next door, which is under construction.

He provided a picture of the sidewalk on Friday afternoon, showing the bricks had been removed.

A photo of Queen St. W. near Ossington on Friday afternoon, showing no bricks. (Submitted by Dan Welch)

Other posts, including a Reddit thread and an Instagram video, claimed that piles of bricks were spotted at the University of Toronto. 

However, the images actually show the outside of a private high school called University of Toronto Schools (UTS), which is affiliated with the University of Toronto but located several kilometres west of the main campus.

In this screenshot from Instagram, a misleading post claims these bricks were spotted at the University of Toronto campus in Toronto. In fact, the bricks are outside a private high school affiliated with U of T but several kilometres away. (@poomangroup/Instagram)

The City of Toronto confirmed to CBC News that it looked into the matter.

“City staff attended the location and confirmed the bricks were placed on the boulevard at 30 Humbert St. by contractors that are doing interlocking brick work at the nearby school,” a spokesperson said in an email. “Staff talked to the contractors and had them remove the bricks from the city right of way.”

Images on Google Street View from May 2019 show that there has historically been a section of bricks laid next to the sidewalk outside the school. 

Google Street View images of 30 Humbert Street in May 2019 show that a section of bricks has been laid next to the sidewalk outside the school. (Google Street View)

UTS principal Rosemary Evans confirmed that roadwork was happening outside the school, that new sidewalks were in place and that she saw two piles of brick next to the sidewalk.

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