00:22 GMT19 April 2021
Listen Live
    UK
    Get short URL
    by
    9173
    Subscribe

    Protesters first flooded the streets of Bristol on 21 March to demonstrate against the new Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill which passed its second reading in the British parliament last week and seeks to expand the police’s powers to combat peaceful protests. At least 20 police officers sustained injuries in Sunday's clashes.

    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.

    ​​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.

    ​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.

    ​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.

    ​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”.

    ​Scuffles broke out, with footage showing rioters wrenching at police shields while officers beat them back using riot gear.

    ​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.

    Bristol Mayhem

    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.

    ​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”.

    Controversial Bill

    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.

    Related:

    Extinction Rebellion UK Denies Being Behind Bristol Violent Protest
    Priti Patel Answers Questions in House of Commons Amid Bristol Protests
    Bristol Protests: Riot Police Disperse 'Kill the Bill' Demonstrators in City Centre
    Naked Protester Confronts Law Enforcement in Bristol as Police Boss Says Officers Are 'Under Siege'
    'Kill the Bill': Demonstrators in Bristol Protest Against Proposed Law Granting Police More Power
    Tags:
    police powers, Boris Johnson, Sarah Everard, coronavirus, COVID-19, Bristol
    Community standardsDiscussion