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First eight suspects are arrested as detectives hunt up to 500 ‘extremists’ behind Bristol riot

Detectives were last night hunting for up to 500 members of the ‘extremist’ mob responsible for one of Britain’s worst riots in a decade – with eight people arrested so far. 

Some 21 officers were injured when individuals hijacked a peaceful protest and brought anarchy to Bristol streets on Sunday night.

Two officers were hospitalised, including one who suffered a punctured lung and broken ribs when he was stamped on by thugs. 

Do you know any of the Bristol rioters? 

Three police vehicles were set alight and nine seriously damaged during the chaos, which left officers fearing for their lives in shocking scenes reminiscent of the 2011 riots.

Avon and Somerset Police Federation chairman Andy Roebuck said some individuals tried to set fire to police vans while officers were still inside. 

‘To my mind that is attempted murder,’ he said. 

So far, eight arrests have been made – six for violent disorder and two for possession of an offensive weapon. 

Footage of the carnage shows rioters hurling missiles at officers defending Bridewell police station in the city centre. Rioters were filmed celebrating atop burning police vehicles.

The violence erupted as night fell following a day of demonstrations, when more than 3,000 people marched through the city to protest against planned legislation to hand police more powers to deal with peaceful demonstrations.

Police chiefs say the largely peaceful protest was infiltrated by individuals hell-bent on clashing with police.

Andy Marsh, the chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, said: ‘I believe the events 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. 

‘There was a hardcore of serious criminals hidden within those 3,000 people – perhaps 400 or 500 people – and we certainly didn’t trigger this.

‘The officers were incredibly patient, incredibly professional and I pay tribute to them.’ Police have made eight arrests.

Rioters set police vehicles on fire as protesters clashed with officers in the shocking scenes on Sunday night

 

Some of the protesters proudly posed above a burning police car in the city centre in the riot

Some of the protesters proudly posed above a burning police car in the city centre in the riot

All are male and one is understood to be from Reading. The rest are from Bristol.

A clean-up operation was under way yesterday around the police station after thugs smashed the station’s windows and wrote ‘f*** the police’ on the walls.

Home Secretary Priti Patel was among those to criticise the ‘appalling thuggery’. She told MPs: ‘The scenes in Bristol were utterly shameful.

‘I will work with everybody to make sure that where the police need the powers to tackle the type of appalling thuggery and criminality that we saw yesterday, we will achieve that while absolutely protecting the right to protest peacefully in our country.’

Investigators have begun watching hours of CCTV, body-worn cameras and witnesses’ videos, and hope to identify the rioters in the coming days. Scenes of officers being pelted by stones, bottles and fireworks have been shared widely on social media.

 

Pictures apparently showed street furniture or roadworks equipment being destroyed

Pictures apparently showed street furniture or roadworks equipment being destroyed

Avon and Somerset Police Federation chairman Andy Roebuck said some people tried to set fire to police vans while officers were still inside. ‘To my mind that is attempted murder.

‘When the protesters started to disperse, the feral criminals took the opportunity to hijack the protest. Officers said they felt they were going to be killed, such was the level of violence. You look into their eyes and hear how their voices were cracking – they were in fear for their lives.’

Sir Peter Fahy, former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, blamed the backlash from the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil, in south London, for the violence against officers.

‘I worry that police officers in Bristol were inhibited from using necessary force to stop ‘protesters’ from attacking them because of the lack of support they saw the Met receive,’ he said. 

 

Investigators will be able to narrow down those who could help them with their enquiries

Investigators will be able to narrow down those who could help them with their enquiries

A significant investigation into the violent disorder in Bristol city centre has been launched with more than 100 officers and staff working on the inquiry.

A total of 21 officers were injured – two of them seriously – when they were violently confronted by people gathered outside the Bridewell Police Station in Bridewell Street.

Officers were attacked and threatened, police vehicles including a community police station were set on fire and criminal damage was caused to the police station exterior.

The Major Crime Investigation Team is leading the inquiry, with support from colleagues in CID, Operational Support, Intelligence and Forensics, to track down those responsible for the violence and damage.

Det Chief Supt Carolyn Belafonte said the investigation would be comprehensive and could result in the release of the largest number of images for wanted suspects in the force’s history.

She said: ‘What happened on the streets of Bristol on Sunday was nothing short of disgraceful and it’s provoked widespread condemnation over the past 24 hours.

‘We’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and kindness that we’ve received from the public, as well as from organisations and agencies across the city. It’s greatly appreciated and means a lot to all the officers and staff who work day in, day out to keep the public safe.

‘We have an enormous amount of digital evidence to go through including CCTV footage, Body Worn Video, social media coverage and footage/photos provided by people at the scene.

‘We’ve already started receiving a large amount of digital material from the public, which we’re grateful for, but to ensure we capture all available evidence, we’ve set up a dedicated form via our website where people can provide video footage and photos

‘Once we’ve carried out an initial view of the material we’ve collated, we’ll be in a position to release images to the public to help us identify suspects. From what we’ve already collated, we’re confident more arrests are imminent.

‘A full forensic examination of the scene has been carried out today and this has resulted in forensic evidence being obtained, including fingerprints, which will also be used to help identify suspects.

‘This will be a lengthy investigation but we’re wholly committed to tracking down all those who engaged in the wanton disorder yesterday. To those who took part in this spree of offending, you can expect a knock at your door in the days or weeks to come – it may come sooner than you think.’ 

Detectives are hunting what they believe to be a ‘hardcore of serious criminals’ who infiltrated 3,000 legitimate demonstrators protesting the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on Sunday.

Among the thousands who massed at the city’s College Green were members of known anarchist groups, and those hostile to law enforcement.

And with hours of CCTV, body-worn police camera footage and eyewitness videos posted online to pore over, investigators will be working to identify activists who could help them with their enquiries.

They will include those seen proudly posing above a burning police car in the city centre and celebrating in front of smouldering emergency vehicles.

Pictures have also captured moments of clear criminal damage being carried out, such as street furniture or roadworks equipment being destroyed and people invading a police station.  

The local Bridewell police station was also trashed, 12 police vans were set on fire or damaged, windows were smashed with graffiti sprayed across walls and buidlings. 

Avon and Somerset Police’s Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: ‘This will undoubtedly lead to one of the biggest appeals for wanted suspects that we’ve ever done. There will be significant consequences for behaviour like this and we will leave no stone unturned’

 

A police van was the subject of other activity as some of the activists climbed on board

A police van was the subject of other activity as some of the activists climbed on board

The protest was billed as being against the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will see the police handed new powers to tackle demonstrations.

But the rally turned sour as darkness began to fall as the pocket of criminals inside the demonstration began their work. 

Groups understood to be at the march included Sisters Uncut, who already organised Kill the Bill marches in cities around the country, as well as regional anarchist organisations.

Members of the Bristol Anarchist Federation were also there, with one member seemingly blaming the police for what happened. 

Most of the protesters were masked, meaning police could have a tough time with identity

Most of the protesters were masked, meaning police could have a tough time with identity

Protester on a roof outside Bridewell Police Station

Demonstrators throw objects during a protest against a the new proposed policing bill

Twenty police officers were injured, two seriously, when what started as a non-violent demonstration turned violent after hundreds of protesters descended on the New Bridewell police station 

What legislation is behind the protests to Kill the Bill?

The Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill  could see the police handed more powers to tackle demonstrations.

The wide-ranging proposals include laws to reform sentencing, the courts and handling offenders.

If passed, some of the measures will be UK-wide while others may only apply in England and Wales. They include: 

– Whole life orders for premeditated murder of a child, allowing judges to also hand out the maximum sentence to 18 to 20-year-olds in exceptional cases, like for acts of terrorism leading to mass loss of life. 

– The legislation looks to toughen up powers the police have to tackle ‘non-violent’ protests which are significantly disruptive to the public or on access to Parliament.

– The proposed law includes an offence of ‘intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance’.

According to the Bill, someone commits this crime if they cause ‘serious harm to the public’, which can include ‘serious annoyance, serious inconvenience or serious loss of amenity’. Those convicted could face a fine or jail. 

Meanwhile, the Government is also seeking to increase the maximum penalty for criminal damage to a memorial from three months to 10 years, under the Bill.

The laws could also see police have more powers to crack down on unauthorised encampments which interfere with the ability to use the land.

Officers could also be allowed to stop and search people more if plans for serious violence reduction orders go ahead.

This would make it easier to carry out checks on those who have previously been convicted of carrying a knife.  

He wrote on a blog: ‘When the police took the gloves off and really struck out the people struck back.

‘Batons, pepper spray and shields were met with fists and sticks.

‘The police vans that drove into the crowd were attacked with bottles and spray paint.’  

Twenty police officers were injured, two seriously, when what started as a non-violent demonstration turned violent after hundreds of protesters descended on the New Bridewell police station.

Two of these injured were treated in hospital after suffering broken ribs and an arm. Both have since been discharged.   

Mr Marsh said the demonstration had been ‘hijacked’ by several hundred ‘extremists’.

‘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 said.

‘Officers were very patient. From the initial gathering of around 2,000 to 3,000, which was more than we anticipated, there were about 50 officers engaging with those present and encouraging them to disperse.

‘Many were complying, in fairness.

‘There was a hardcore of serious criminals hidden within those 3,000 people – perhaps 400 or 500 people – and we certainly didn’t trigger this. 

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, who said he had ‘major concerns’ about the Government’s Bill, condemned the thuggery but said the disorder would be used to justify the legislation.

‘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. What has injuring police officers, smashing windows, burning cars got to do with the challenges we face as a city right now?

‘But the violence that happened last night goes nowhere to actually reducing the likelihood of this 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.

Some of the people at the protests were seen on top of structures risking public order offences

Some of the people at the protests were seen on top of structures risking public order offences

 

Other demonstrators could be seen celebrating in front of 999 vehicles being torched

Other demonstrators could be seen celebrating in front of 999 vehicles being torched

‘It runs absolutely against what they claim to be fighting for – political illiteracy at large.’ 

Sue Mountstevens, police and crime commissioner for Avon and Somerset, said seven people had been arrested so far and there would be ‘many more’ detained.

‘It’s disgraceful and outrageous. Police officers went to work yesterday, and some have returned home via hospital battered and bruised,’ she said.

‘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.

‘I believe there have been seven arrests so far and there will be many more.’

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would give the police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance.

Those convicted under the proposed legislation could face a fine or jail.

Avon and Somerset Police Federation chairman Andy Roebuck condemned the violence as ‘disgusting scenes in Bristol by a mob of animals’.

John Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: ‘This is not about protecting the right to protest, it’s violent criminality from a hardcore minority who will hijack any situation for their own aims.’

Darren Jones, the Labour MP for Bristol North West, said: ‘You don’t campaign for the right to peaceful protest by setting police vans on fire or graffitiing buildings.’


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