Bristol mayor condemns violence as counterproductive to campaign against anti-protest measures

‘Kill the bill’ protest: police vans set alight and officers injured video report
UK newsBristol mayor condemns violence as counterproductive to campaign against anti-protest measures
Mon 22 Mar 2021 05.15 EDT
Twenty police officers have been injured at a kill the bill demonstration in Bristol during which protesters stoned a police station and set fire to vehicles in what the citys mayor has condemned as self-indulgent and counterproductive violence.
Avon and Somerset police have made seven arrests so far but have vowed to track down hundreds of people involved in what its chief constable, Andy Marsh, described as criminality and thuggery.Bristol mayor, Marvin Rees, said the violence was counterproductive to the campaign against the governments plans to give police more powers against protesters as part of the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill.
He told BBC Radio 4s Today programme: I am from communities who are disproportionately likely to be on the receiving end of the criminal justice system and receive unfair treatment. What they have done has done nothing to make me, and people like me, safer. This was selfish self-indulgence, self-centred, you know, violence.
Marsh told Sky News: Twenty of the brave officers who were trying to quell that violence and deal with that disorder have been injured, two of them seriously. Weve made seven arrests and weve now launched a very significant investigation.
Marsh said one of those injured suffered a collapsed or punctured lung after being stamped on, and the other had broken bones. He added: Neighbourhood officers police community support officers were effectively trapped inside this building with people on the roofs firing fireworks at them hurling projectiles at them.
Marsh said up to 3,000 people took part in demonstrations against plans to give police increased powers to shut down peaceful protests. Speaking to the BBC Radio 4s Today programme, he said they included a group of up to 500 people who really were intent on violence, damage and criminality.
After 6pm on Sunday evening, they began throwing stones at Bridewell neighbourhood police station in central Bristol.
Marsh said 12 police vehicles were damaged and the stations toughened glass windows were broken. He said: We know that theyve burned out three marked vehicles, nine vehicles that are used for safeguarding the most vulnerable have also been damaged, the windows of the station have been put in.
The force will be issuing photographs later on Monday of those involved as part of a huge investigation, Marsh said.
He added: Weve made five arrests so far, it wouldnt have been possible or practical to make more [arrests] on the night given the volume of people involved, but 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, and I do expect very serious consequences for those involved.
He also defended the policing of the demonstration. He said: The group that were sitting down creating a scene outside the Bridewell police station were, by the assessment of my team, looking for a trigger to provoke a violent response. And as is good practice what we didnt want to do was give them a trigger that could be avoided, and simply wading in and making a handful of arrests from a mob of hundreds of angry people would have left the officers more vulnerable, the station more vulnerable to being overrun. By about 5.30pm it became clear that whatever we did, we wouldnt be able to avoid a very violent confrontation.
He added: We are talking about a violent minority of criminals, and we will track them down and we will bring them to justice.
The Bristol mayor, Marvin Rees, says the lawlessness would be used as evidence and promote the need for the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill. Photograph: Adrian Sherratt/The Guardian
The violence has been condemned by politicians of all sides. The home secretary, Priti Patel, said thuggery and disorder would not be tolerated. The shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, described the scenes as awful and shocking, tweeting: There is no excuse whatsoever for this violence. Thinking of those officers who have been injured, and their families, and wishing them a swift recovery.
Rees said that rather than stopping government plans to increase police powers, the lawlessness on show would be used as evidence and promote the need for the bill.
Speaking to ITVs Good Morning Britain, he said: I draw a hard line between those people out smashing up my city yesterday and the bill, theyve got nothing to do with the bill.
Experience would suggest that there are a group of people running around the country looking for any opportunity to enter into physical conflict with the police or representatives of what they see as the establishment, whether its the bill, whether its some other protest, theyll take the opportunity. Lets do the debate around a bill, justice, and not attach it to these people whove gone out and tried to smash up my city.
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