March 22, 2021
A protester smashes a window with a stick outside Bridewell Police Station, in Bristol, England, Sunday March 21, 2021, as people took part in a protest demonstrating against the Police and Crime Bill. PA VIA AP / ANDREW MATTHEWS
By Pan Pylas | The Associated Press
LONDON – A protest in the west England city of Bristol against new policing legislation descended into violence that left at least 20 officers injured, two of them seriously, police said Monday.
The protest, which started Sunday afternoon and ran through to the early hours of Monday morning, also saw seven people arrested. Police said that number would likely increase in coming days as officers study closed-circuit video footage.
The violence, which also saw several police vehicles damaged, was branded as “unacceptable” by Britain’s interior minister, Priti Patel. She said “thuggery and disorder” would never be tolerated.
What started as a peaceful demonstration of around 3,000 people on College Green in the heart of the city turned violent after hundreds of protesters descended on the New Bridewell police station.
Many demonstrators donned face masks and carried placards criticizing the legislation, such as “Say no to U.K. police state” and “Freedom to protest is fundamental to democracy.”
The protesters were ostensibly venting their anger at the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently going through parliament. Under the terms of the legislation, which covers England and Wales, police will be handed new powers to tackle demonstrations.
Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, who said he had “major concerns” about the bill, condemned the violence and said the unrest would be used to justify the legislation.
Sue Mountstevens, police and crime commissioner for the Avon and Somerset region, said seven people have been arrested but that there would be “many more” detained.
“It’s disgraceful and outrageous,“ she said. “Police officers went to work yesterday and some have returned home via hospital battered and bruised.”
Protesters attempted to smash the windows of the glass-fronted police station and damaged 12 vehicles, including two that were set on fire.
Andy Marsh, chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, said 12 police vehicles were damaged and “significant damage” was caused to the New Bridewell police station.
“Officers were pelted with stones and missiles and fireworks and it was a terrifying situation for them to deal with,“ he said.
“I believe the events of yesterday were hijacked by extremists, people who were determined to commit criminal damage, to generate very negative sentiment about policing and to assault our brave officers,“ he added.
Two of the police officers injured were treated in hospital after suffering broken ribs and an arm. Both have since been discharged.
“All of those assaulted were incredibly shocked, some of them were beaten around the head with sticks, hit with missiles,“ said Marsh.