Bristol has witnessed a third protest rally in a week, as nearly a thousand people converged on the city centre near Bridewell police station on Friday, to demonstrate against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, with ten arrests made, according to the Avon and Somerset Police.
Ten people were arrested in #Bristol following violent disorder in the city overnight.— Avon and Somerset Police (@ASPolice) March 27, 2021
Glass bottles and bricks were thrown at officers while fireworks were launched at our mounted section. One of our horses was also covered with paint.
More here - https://t.co/fStos1qbXW pic.twitter.com/CSlQGv83XT
The station had been the target of violence last Sunday, with protesters setting police vehicles on fire and smashing the windows, with several people arrested in the wake of the disturbances.
It’s going wild again in Bristol! Expect a night of violence! 😡😡 pic.twitter.com/rn1mC8pSAL— Craig bf (@bf_craig) March 27, 2021
Initially, a growing crowd of people had gathered on 26 March in the street near Bridewell police station, with footage from the scene showing some people sitting, while others raised their arms in the air, chanting “we are peaceful what are you”.
A large law enforcement turnout cordoned off the area of the rally, with police vans, mounted officers in full riot gear and dogs on leads used to push back the protesters.
Police horses push back protesters to Cabot car park pic.twitter.com/S4N8xIYj4v— Conor Gogarty (@ConorGogarty) March 26, 2021
More than a hundred police officers wearing helmets and holding riot shields could be seen urging those gathered to disperse at 10 pm, having earlier warned people against attending, citing the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Witnesses claimed small items, including eggs, were pelted at officers, while the police force said glass bottles and traffic cones were also among the projectiles used. In response, mounted police began to move in on the crowd.
Firework explodes as horses charge at protesters in Bristol pic.twitter.com/Za5N4qHjqC— Conor Gogarty (@ConorGogarty) March 26, 2021
Another firework goes off, this one under a riot van pic.twitter.com/a3S7EkMLbt— Conor Gogarty (@ConorGogarty) March 26, 2021
Mayhem ensued, as flares and what appeared to be a small firework were set off near the feet of the police horses, sending them skittering across the pavement, with Avon and Somerset Police tweeting that protesters were “pulling at officers’ shields and shining lasers in their faces”.
Projectiles, including eggs and glass bottles, are being thrown at officers.— Avon and Somerset Police (@ASPolice) March 26, 2021
Protestors are also pulling at officers’ shields while lasers are being shone in their faces.
We will not tolerate violent disorder.
Arrests have been made.
Scuffles broke out, with footage showing rioters wrenching at police shields while officers beat them back using riot gear.
The police brutality at the #KillTheBill protest in Bristol is absolutely disgusting. A prone person on the floor being manhandled and then beaten further while obviously incapacitated.— Katy Whitton (@katy_whitton) March 27, 2021
I will be interesting to see the explanation for the level of force used. https://t.co/fKWGMiPohO
The force did not specify the number of arrests made on Friday.
Chief Superintendent Claire Armes, Avon and Somerset Police's head of operational support, urged people not to gather for similar rallies over the weekend, saying:
"We are aware that some people may be intending to protest in Bristol and Bath this weekend, 26 to 28 March... 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."
However, activists are set to stage a new ‘Kill the Bill' protest in Manchester on Saturday, with a protest against the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill also planned for Sheffield.
“The plan is to bring together all sorts of organisations because the whole thing with this bill is that it affects everyone – it doesn’t matter who you are, what your interests are," Emmott Baddeley, co-founder of the new Sheffield Against the Policing Bill group, was quoted as saying by Yorkshire Live.
Friday's protest was the third demonstration held in the southwest of England against the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to expand police powers to restrict demonstrations.
At least 300 people continue to march through #Bristol city centre.— Avon and Somerset Police (@ASPolice) March 26, 2021
Officers are in attendance and continue to monitor the situation.
Specialist resources, including horses and dogs, have been deployed. pic.twitter.com/b2u9BoAPPE
The Bill passed its second reading in the British parliament last week and if adopted, it would increase police powers, including putting time limits on protests.
On 21 March around 3,000 people had gathered on College Green in an initially peaceful protest before the 'Kill the Bill' rally spiralled into violence after a group of around 500 hardcore activists arrived outside Bridewell Police Station in Bristol city centre.
The protesters proceeded to torch police vans, smash windows of buildings and attack officers, with Avon and Somerset Police investigating reported assaults on 40 officers.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel called the scenes in Bristol “thuggery”, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the Sunday riots as unacceptable.
Two days after the riot, on 23 March, around 100 demonstrators gathered on College Green - the heart of the city's student area, with officers making 15 arrests, reported the Independent.
All those apprehended were released from custody and face being fined or reported for breaches of coronavirus restrictions. Some were allowed to walk free on conditional bail for obstructing the highway, pending further inquiries, according to the outlet.
The spate of protests have also integrated with people gathering to memorialise Sarah Everard, who went missing as she walked home from a friend’s flat on 3 March.
Wayne Couzens, a serving Metropolitan Police officer, has been charged with her kidnap and murder. A vigil to mark Everard’s death held in Clapham on 13 March spiralled in what critics claim was “heavy-handed policing”.
The legislation that has sparked such indignation would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed “a nuisance”, with those convicted under the proposed bill potentially facing fines or jail terms. The wide-ranging proposals include laws to reform sentencing, the courts and handling of offenders.
Furthermore, police could be allowed to stop and search people more, rendering it easier to carry out checks on those who have previously been convicted of carrying a knife.
Some of the proposed measures will be applied UK-wide while others may only be enforced in England and Wales.