Seven arrested following violent protest in Bristol that saw police station attacked

Two police officers injured and vehicles set on fire during ‘Kill the Bill’ demonstration

Police and protesters in Bristol, England clash at a demonstration against a government bill that would give police new powers to restrict protests. Video: Reuters

 

Seven people have been arrested following the “Kill the Bill” riot in Bristol, according to Avon and Somerset Police. Six of the arrests were made for violent disorder and one for possession of an offensive weapon.

The violent scenes that marred the protest on Sunday, which saw a police station attacked, 20 officers injured and vehicles set alight, have been widely condemned.

The demonstration was in opposition to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would give the police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance. Those convicted under the proposed legislation could face a fine or jail.

A total of 20 officers were assaulted or injured and two of them were taken to hospital after suffering broken bones. One of them also suffered a punctured lung.

Riot police, with police horses and police vehicles, move towards protesters in Bristol. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Riot police, with police horses and police vehicles, move towards protesters. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Chief constable Andy Marsh said: “Let’s be clear, the wanton violence and destruction had nothing to do with protest — it was committed by those looking for an excuse to commit disorder.

“The scenes we witnessed yesterday were shameful and I know will be condemned by the whole city. We’ve received messages of support from across the policing, emergency service and political landscape.

“No one wants to see police officers abused or attacked in this way. These men and women put their safety on the line every day to keep the public safe and do not deserve to be on the forefront of this abhorrent criminal behaviour.”

Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, Andy Marsh, speaks to the media outside of Bridewell Police Station in Bristol, where protesters broke windows and vandalised the building on Sunday following a demonstration against the Government's controversial Police and Crime Bill. Picture date: Monday March 22, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story POLICE Reclaim. Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, Andy Marsh, outside Bridewell Police Station. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Home secretary Priti Patel branded the scenes “unacceptable” and said “thuggery and disorder” would never be tolerated.

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees, who said he had “major concerns” about the Bill, condemned the thuggery but said the disorder would be used to justify the legislation.

Mass gatherings are currently banned under coronavirus legislation and anyone breaching the regulations could be fined.

Many who attended the protest on College Green were wearing face masks and carried placards, saying: “Say no to UK police state” and “Freedom to protest is fundamental to democracy” and “Kill the Bill”.

Violent turn

What started as a non-violent demonstration on Sunday afternoon turned violent after hundreds of protesters descended on the New Bridewell police station.

Two police officers were taken to hospital during violent skirmishes with masked thugs, suffering broken ribs and an arm.

Later, protesters attempted to smash the windows of the glass-fronted police station.

They also tried to set fire to one of the marked police vans parked outside the station but the small flames were quickly extinguished by riot officers.

Other protesters set fire to a police van parked near the police station.

Rioters smashed the windows of the station and also destroyed Avon and Somerset Police vehicles parked nearby, setting fire to a car and a van.

Cars parked in a multi-storey car park adjacent to the police station were also damaged by protesters.

Avon and Somerset Police said its officers had missiles and fireworks thrown at them and used mounted officers and dogs to disperse the mob.

The mindless violence was condemned by the home secretary, police federation representatives and local leaders.

In a tweet, Ms Patil said: “Unacceptable scenes in Bristol tonight. Thuggery and disorder by a minority will never be tolerated. Our police officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect us all. My thoughts this evening are with those police officers injured.”

Workers from the Bristol Business Improvement District clean graffiti outside Bridewell Police Station. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Workers from the Bristol Business Improvement District clean graffiti outside Bridewell Police Station. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Mr Rees said: “I have major concerns about the Bill myself, which is poorly thought out and could impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to peaceful protest.

“Smashing buildings in our city centre, vandalising vehicles, attacking our police will do nothing to lessen the likelihood of the Bill going through.

“On the contrary, the lawlessness on show will be used as evidence and promote the need for the Bill.

“This is a shameful day in an incredible year for Bristol. We have faced times of great confrontation particularly surrounding Black Lives Matter and the events that followed. We have had numerous protests.

“Our police, city representatives and I have been able to point out with pride that we have faced these moments of conflict without the physical conflict that others have experienced. Those who decided to turn the protest into a physical confrontation and smash our city have robbed us of this.”

‘Disgusting scenes’

Andy Roebuck, chairman of the Avon and Somerset Police Federation, said: “Disgusting scenes in Bristol by a mob of animals who are injuring police officers, members of the public and damaging property. We have officers with suspected broken arms and ribs. This is so wrong.”

John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “This is not about protecting the right to protest, it’s violent criminality from a hardcore minority who will hijack any situation for their own aims.”

Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West, said: “The scenes in Bristol this evening are completely unacceptable. You don’t campaign for the right to peaceful protest by setting police vans on fire or graffitiing buildings.”

Chief Superintendent Will White of Avon and Somerset Police said: “These scenes are absolutely disgraceful and they will be widely condemned by people across the city.

“There can never be any excuse for wanton disorder. All those involved in his criminal behaviour will be identified and brought to justice. There will be significant consequences for behaviour such as this.”– PA