A demonstration against a controversial policing bill that turned violent has been widely condemned as “unacceptable” and “shameful”.
On Sunday thousands gathered on College Green in Bristol city centre to protest against 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.
What began as a non-violent sit-down demonstration on Sunday afternoon turned violent as some ‘Kill the Bill’ protesters descended on the New Bridewell police station.
Riot police, dogs and police horses were deployed as violent scuffles broke out and fireworks and projectiles were thrown at the police, Bristol Live reported.
Two police officers were injured with broken ribs and an arm and taken to hospital. Seven people were arrested – six on suspicion of violent disorder and one on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon.
Protestors also smashed the windows of the police station and set fire to an Avon and Somerset Police car and a van parked nearby. Other cars parked in a multi-storey car park adjacent to the station were also damaged.
Bristol mayor Marvin Rees said it was “a shameful day for Bristol” and claimed the protest would be counterproductive and “will be used as evidence and promote the need for the Bill.”
In a statement, he said: “The violence and damage that have emerged from today’s protests are unacceptable and have nothing to do with the real work we are doing to tackle political, economic and social inequality.
“I recognise the frustrations with the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. 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.”
Home secretary Priti Patel also condemned the scenes, tweeting: “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.”
Labour MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones, also described the scenes as “completely unacceptable”.
“You don’t campaign for the right to peaceful protest by setting police vans on fire or graffitiing buildings,” he tweeted.
“Avon and Somerset police were on duty today to facilitate a peaceful protest not to deal with criminal behaviour.”
Avon and Somerset Police chief superintendent Will White 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.”