Violence that broke out during a “Kill The Bill” protest was caused by people who “came for a fight with police”, Bristol’s chief constable has said.
The event was organised to protest against the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would increase police powers to deal non-violent demonstrations.
However, what started out peacefully on Sunday afternoon turned ugly after hundreds of protesters marched from College Green to the New Bridewell police station.
Twenty police officers were injured, two seriously, with one suffering broken bones and another with a suspected punctured lung, during violent skirmishes with masked thugs.
Andy Marsh of Avon and Somerset police told Sky News a number of those protesting “came for a fight with the police”.
“It was a terrifying scene. Neighbourhood officers were effectively trapped inside the building with people on the roofs throwing fireworks at them, hurling projectiles.
“And the other officers outside doing their very best to protect everyone present.
“It really was a disgraceful scene committed by criminals. I don’t believe this was a protest.
“It wasn’t people frustrated with the lack of ability to protest – this was people intent on causing serious disorder, violence and damage, people with a grudge against policing.
“The people involved in assaulting the officers, burning out vehicles, damaging vehicles, smashing windows, hurling projectiles from the multi-storey car park, throwing things at our horses and dogs – they were people who came for a fight with the police.
“We did everything that we could to try to calm the situation… to disperse that crowd to encourage them to leave but ultimately it unfortunately turned to violence.”
Rioters smashed the windows of the police station and also destroyed police vehicles parked nearby, setting fire to a car and a van.
Cars parked in a multi-storey car park next to the police station were also damaged by protesters.
At least seven people have been arrested.
Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted about the “unacceptable scenes”.
“Thuggery and disorder by a minority will never be tolerated,” she wrote.
“Our police officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect us all.
“My thoughts this evening are with those police officers injured.”
Andy Roebuck, chairman of the Avon and Somerset Police Federation, said: “Disgusting scenes in Bristol by a mob of animals who are injuring police officers, members of the public and damaging property.
“We have officers with suspected broken arms and ribs.
“This is so wrong.”
One protester told Sky News: “I think it was important to be down here when things are peaceful because the right to protest is crucial to any democracy obviously.
“This however, is a little bit embarrassing for the city of Bristol.
“This is not a peaceful protest. It’s just going to be used against us as evidence to keep our right to protest away from us.”
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would give officers in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed to be too noisy or a nuisance.
Those convicted under the proposed legislation could face a fine or jail.
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