More violence in Bristol as 'kill the bill' protesters clash with police

Figcaption More Violence In Bristol As Kill The Bill Protesters Clash With Police
Posted at: Author: Rain TV UK

Violence erupted between protesters and police in Bristol again on Friday night as more than a thousand demonstrators gathered for a third “kill the bill” demonstration within a week.

Dozens of people were involved in skirmishes with police as officers wearing helmets and holding shields moved towards the crowd after 10 o’clock, following orders for the crowd to disperse under a “breach of Covid legislation”.

A few protesters threw bottles in response and chanted: “Shame on you.” Police used horses and vans to drive crowds back into the city centre, and people were treated for the effects of pepper spray.

Avon and Somerset police said arrests were made. “Projectiles, including eggs and glass bottles, are being thrown at officers,” the force tweeted. It did not specify how many arrests had been made.

More than a thousand people gathered in the city centre earlier in the evening to protest against the government’s police, crime, sentencing and courts Bill.

Hundreds sat down in the street near Bridewell police station, the focus of rioting on Sunday evening and Monday morning.

One man injured in the clashes was left nursing a bloody head that he said was caused by a police baton. “I was at the front by the police station,” said Joe, 30, a recruitment consultant. “The police suddenly pushed forward. I pushed back and was hit with a baton. I’ve lost quite a lot of blood. I was protesting peacefully.”

Jen, a 22-year-old student, was being treated for the effects of pepper spray. “My eyeballs are burning. I can’t believe the police have done this. We were here to protest peacefully. The atmosphere was good, then they just piled in.”

There was growing anger in Bristol not only at the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill but at the way protests against it are being policed in the city.

The first demonstration held last Sunday started off peacefully with about 3,000 attending but descended into a riot when about 500 people marched on Bridewell police station.

The Bristol protest on Friday was one of 13 planned in towns and cities in England over the weekend, with opponents of the new bill also due to gather in Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Brighton, Cambridge, Cardiff, Winchester, Bath, Portsmouth, Lancaster, Nottingham and Kingston upon Thames.

Officers stand guard during a ‘kill the bill’ demonstration in Bristol. Photograph: Jon Rowley/EPA

Earlier on Friday, Avon and Somerset police apologised for wrongly claiming that two officers suffered broken bones during the disturbances on Sunday.

It said in a tweet: “Our initial information suggested two officers had broken bones. Thankfully the injuries – while still serious – did not involve fractures. We believed the information had been verified but it had not, and while we apologise for that there was no intention to mislead.”

*UPDATE: our initial information suggested two officers had broken bones. Thankfully the injuries – while still serious – did not involve fractures. We believed the information had been verified but it had not, and while we apologise for that there was no intention to mislead.

— Avon and Somerset Police (@ASPolice) March 26, 2021

Chanting and placards at Friday’s protest in Bristol expressed contempt for the bill but also criticised police “lies”.

There was also anger that a peaceful sit-down protest on Tuesday night, at which the focus was the potential for the bill to criminalise Gypsy and Traveller communities, ended with officers in riot gear moving in and arresting 13 people.

Police in Bristol blocked all entrances into Bridewell Street last night. A hardcore of protesters stood face to face with the officers midway through the evening, chanting. Scores more sat down in front of the police. There were shouts of, “Where’s your broken bones?”

By 8.30pm hundreds more danced to sound systems. At one point a sound system fixed to a bicycle played the Benny Hill theme tune and led protesters towards the town. Others watched jugglers, and acrobats scrambled on top of traffic lights.

The mood changed at 9pm. The vast majority of the crowd was peaceful but riot shields were raised as a couple of eggs were hurled towards the police.

On Friday Ch Supt Claire Armes, the force’s head of operational support, said: “We are aware that some people may be intending to protest in Bristol and Bath this weekend. Once again, we remind everyone that we’re still in a pandemic which has cost many lives and remains a significant challenge for our colleagues in the NHS.

“We have all sacrificed so much to stop the spread of this terrible disease and we’re so close to a relaxation of the restrictions, when peaceful protest will again be possible.

“In Avon and Somerset we remain committed to facilitating peaceful protest when it’s safe and lawful to do so, however gatherings remain a breach of Covid restrictions and risk increasing the spread of coronavirus. We urge you not to come.

“We do understand the strength of opposition to the new legislation being debated in parliament. Protest is a right which we’re asking people to be responsible about exercising right now. This is about public health and public safety at a time of pandemic.

“Thirteen people were arrested after we asked people to disperse from Tuesday’s protest. Ten of them were aged between 19 and 25 – young people who clearly have a social conscience, but who may now face a criminal conviction which could impact on their whole futures and their chances of making a real difference in society.

“I want to make it clear. Peaceful protesters will be given the opportunity to disperse, but Bristol will not tolerate violent behaviour and we’re here to prevent it.”

Momentum is gathering in opposition to the new crime bill, which is being opposed by a broad range of protest groups, as well as civil society organisations.

Protesters against the bill are due to return to the streets of London and other cities the following weekend, with activists organising under the slogan #KillTheBill calling for a national day of action on 3 April.

Also in London, activists have opened a #KillTheBill squat in the disused Cavendish Road police station in Clapham, which is situated yards from the last place that Sarah Everard was seen alive.

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