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'Disgraceful and outrageous': Bristol rioters condemned after police attacked during night of violence

Ross McGuinness
·7-min read

Watch: Rioters violently clash with police in Bristol

There has been widespread condemnation of rioters who attacked police in Bristol, leaving two officers seriously injured.

Police vehicles were set alight after a previously peaceful “Kill the Bill” protest in the city descended into a riot on Sunday evening, leaving two officers with broken ribs and a broken arm. One of the officers also suffered a punctured lung.

Avon and Somerset Police said seven people have been arrested – six for violent disorder and one for possession of an offensive weapon.

Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset police and crime commissioner, said “many more” would be arrested in the coming days as officers examined a large amount of CCTV footage from Sunday night’s riot.

A total of 20 officers were injured, two seriously, both of whom have been discharged from hospital.

SENSITIVE MATERIAL. THIS IMAGE MAY OFFEND OR DISTURB    A demonstrator skateboards in front of a burning police vehicle during a protest against a new proposed policing bill, in Bristol, Britain, March 21, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A demonstrator skateboards in front of a burning police vehicle after a protest turned violent in Bristol on Sunday evening. (Reuters)

On Monday, Mountstevens said: “It’s disgraceful and outrageous. Police officers went to work yesterday and some have returned home via hospital battered and bruised.

“There will be warrants, there will be arrests and police will be checking on the CCTV. There will be further arrests in the next few hours and days."

She added: “Such a violent demonstration is shameful at any time, let alone during a pandemic that has seen local people make many sacrifices.

“Those who clearly acted with intent to cause damage and destruction showed reckless disregard for the safety of local people, police officers and the general community."

SENSITIVE MATERIAL. THIS IMAGE MAY OFFEND OR DISTURB    Demonstrators pose with a police riot shield in front of a burning police vehicle during a protest against a new proposed policing bill, in Bristol, Britain, March 21, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra
Demonstrators pose with a police riot shield in front of a burning police vehicle in Bristol. (Reuters)

Avon and Somerset Police chief constable Andy Marsh said: “Let’s be clear, the wanton violence and destruction had nothing to do with protest – it was committed by those looking for an excuse to commit disorder.

“The scenes we witnessed yesterday were shameful and I know will be condemned by the whole city.”

He said there was no “prior intelligence” that any disorder was planned “on this scale”.

He added: “A tactical decision was made to deal with these criminals retrospectively and not make a significant number of arrests last night, which would have impacted significantly on our resources at the scene and created a greater risk of damage to property and injuries to the reduced number of officers left to deal with the disorder.

“What the public will see now is a huge police investigation in which we’ll be gathering evidence from CCTV, body-worn video, social media content and images or video sent in by the public.”

SENSITIVE MATERIAL. THIS IMAGE MAY OFFEND OR DISTURB   A view shows a burning police vehicle during a protest against a new proposed policing bill, in Bristol, Britain, March 21, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra
A burning police vehicle during rioting in Bristol. (Reuters)
A demonstrator gestures near a burning police vehicle during a protest against a new proposed policing bill, in Bristol, Britain, March 21, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra
A demonstrator gestures near a burning police vehicle. (Reuters)

Earlier on Monday, Marsh told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Rest assured, by the end of today we will be releasing pictures of some of the people we want.

“There will be a huge investigation. I do expect very serious consequences for those involved.”

He said that of the 3,000 people at the demonstration, about 400 or 500 “really were intent on violence, damage and criminality”.

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees said the riot had nothing to do with the “real everyday struggles” that people in the city face after 12 months of the pandemic.

“It’s selfish, it is self-indulgent and self-centred activity – people living out their revolutionary fantasies,” he said.

“This has nothing to do with being in lockdown for a year. There are people who go around looking for the latest demo.

A vandalised police van explodes outside Bridewell Police Station, after protesters set it on fire, after demonstrating against the Government's controversial Police and Crime Bill. Picture date: Sunday March 21, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
A vandalised police van explodes outside Bridewell Police Station in Bristol after protesters set it on fire. (PA Images via Getty Images)
A vandalised police van on fire outside Bridewell Police Station, as other police vehicles arrive after protesters demonstrated against the Government's controversial Police and Crime Bill. Picture date: Sunday March 21, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
A vandalised police van on fire outside Bridewell Police Station. (PA Images via Getty Images)

“They look for the opportunity for the flashpoints and I suspect there are a number of people who were here last night who are amongst those.

“The violence that happened in a city last night goes nowhere to actually reducing the likelihood of this [policing] bill winning support. In fact, it does quite the contrary.

“People from those communities who have been on the rough end of the criminal justice system are now in more danger. It doesn’t put them closer to justice, it puts them further away.

“It runs absolutely against what they claim to be in fighting for – political illiteracy at large.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the events in Bristol were “inexcusable” and “completely unacceptable”.

“I hope that the perpetrators are identified and prosecuted where that’s appropriate,” he told LBC Radio.

Crowds had been protesting against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would introduce a range of powers to impose start and finish times on protests and set noise limits.

Many who attended the protest on College Green wore face masks and carried placards saying: “Say no to UK police state”, “Freedom to protest is fundamental to democracy” and “Kill the Bill”.

What started as a non-violent demonstration turned violent after hundreds of protesters descended on Bridewell Police Station.

The two injured police officers were taken to hospital during violent skirmishes with masked rioters.

Later, protesters attempted to smash the windows of the glass-fronted police station.

They also set fire to one of the marked police vans parked outside the station. Other protesters set fire to a police van parked on Bridewell Street, near to the police station.

Demonstrators confront police officers during a protest against a new proposed policing bill, in Bristol, Britain, March 21, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra
Demonstrators confront police officers during a protest in Bristol against a new proposed policing bill. (Reuters)
Fireworks are launched as police officers with dogs arrive to a protest against a new proposed policing bill, in Bristol, Britain, March 21, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra
Fireworks are launched as police officers with dogs arrive on the scene in Bristol on Sunday. (Reuters)
Police hold back people outside Bridewell Police Station as they take part in a 'Kill the Bill' protest in Bristol, demonstrating against the Government's controversial Police and Crime Bill. Picture date: Sunday March 21, 2021.
Police hold back people outside Bridewell Police Station as they take part in a 'Kill the Bill' protest in Bristol. (PA)
Protester kicks a smashed Bridewell Police Station window, as they take part in a 'Kill the Bill' protest in Bristol, demonstrating against the Government's controversial Police and Crime Bill. Picture date: Sunday March 21, 2021.
A protester kicks a smashed Bridewell Police Station window. (PA)

Rioters smashed the windows of the police station and also destroyed Avon and Somerset Police vehicles parked nearby, setting fire to a car and a van.

Cars parked in a multi-storey car park adjacent to the police station were also damaged by protesters.

Avon and Somerset Police said its officers had missiles and fireworks thrown at them and used mounted officers and dogs to disperse the mob.

Home secretary Priti Patel tweeted that the scenes were "unacceptable". She tweeted: "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.”

A demonstrator takes a selfie with a police officer as he takes part in a protest against a new proposed policing bill, in Bristol, Britain, March 21, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra
A demonstrator takes a selfie with a police officer as he takes part in Sunday's protest in Bristol. (Reuters)
People on top of a police van in front of Bridewell Police Station as they take part in a 'Kill the Bill' protest in Bristol, demonstrating against the Government's controversial Police and Crime Bill. Picture date: Sunday March 21, 2021.
People on top of a police van in front of Bridewell Police Station. (PA)
Police hold back people outside Bridewell Police Station as they take part in a 'Kill the Bill' protest in Bristol, demonstrating against the Government's controversial Police and Crime Bill. Picture date: Sunday March 21, 2021.
Police hold back people outside Bridewell Police Station. (PA)
Police officers control the crowd during a protest against a new proposed policing bill, in Bristol, Britain, March 21, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra
Police officers control the crowd in Bristol during a protest against a new proposed policing bill. (Reuters)
People take part in a 'Kill the Bill' protest in Bristol, demonstrating against the Government's controversial Police and Crime Bill. Picture date: Sunday March 21, 2021.
Thousands took part in a 'Kill the Bill' protest in Bristol on Sunday. (PA)

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.”

Chief Superintendent Will White, of Avon and Somerset Police, 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.”

Watch: Thousands gather in Bristol for 'Kill the Bill' protest