Kill the Bill protestors are set to march through Bristol for a third time tonight as they ignore pleas from the police to stay at home after earlier demonstrations turned into riots.
Around 3,000 campaigners calling for an end to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill first gathered on College Green on Sunday, with violent scenes showing police vans on fire and the city’s Bridewell Police Station under siege.
Avon and Somerset Police claimed two police officers suffered broken bones amid the carnage – but that statement was retracted yesterday.
Protestors gathered again on Tuesday, with 13 people – mostly aged between 19 and 25 – arrested, while officers are trying to find out the names of 18 more demonstrators linked to disorder across the two protests.
Yesterday police shared footage from Sunday’s protect, showing the moment a lit item was placed under a police van while a police officer was inside.
Tonight, demonstrators are set to descend on Bristol for a third time, prompting calls from Avon and Somerset Police for people to stay at home.
An activist who previously helped organise Bristol protests has also urged people to stay home.
After violent clashes with officers saw a police vans set alight on Sunday, demonstrators are set to return to College Green in Bristol for a third protest tonight
The unnamed man advised people wait until Monday, when coronavirus restrictions relax, to gather.
He said: ‘My belief is that, in this current climate of lockdowns, young people, bored and frustrated by their situation, witnessing a standoff with police in the evening, could be inclined to take out their aggression on the police who they may feel responsible for their lack of possibilities at the moment.
‘We normally chose day times on weekends to negate the risk of people with alternate agendas hijacking our protests.
‘I cannot support the choice of a Friday afternoon start, it’s a recipe for disaster, obviously, and therefore I fear this event has been organised by someone with bad intentions, and so I want to be distanced from it entirely, as do those I know.’
Chief Superintendent Claire Armes, Avon and Somerset Police’s head of operational support, urged people not to march this weekend.
She said: ‘We are aware that some people may be intending to protest in Bristol and Bath this weekend, 26 to 28 March.
‘Once again, we remind everyone that we’re still in a pandemic which has cost many lives and remains a significant challenge for our colleagues in the NHS.
‘We have all sacrificed so much to stop the spread of this terrible disease and we’re so close to a relaxation of the restrictions, when peaceful protest will again be possible.
‘In Avon and Somerset we remain committed to facilitating peaceful protest when it’s safe and lawful to do so, however gatherings remain a breach of COVID restrictions and risk increasing the spread of coronavirus.
So far 13 people, mostly aged between 19 and 25-years-old, have been arrested in connection with disorder at protests on Sunday and Tuesday
Fires were started and protestors clashed with police on Sunday. Chief Superintendent Claire Armes, Avon and Somerset Police’s head of operational support, urged people not to march this weekend
A burning piece of card was placed under a police van as fires raged behind on Sunday night
Yesterday police released an image of an 18th protester they wanted to speak to after a lit item was placed under a police van with an officer still inside
‘We urge you not to come. ‘We do understand the strength of opposition to the new legislation being debated in Parliament.
‘Protest is a right which we’re asking people to be responsible about exercising right now. This is about public health and public safety at a time of pandemic.
‘Please consider making your voice heard in different ways – such as contacting your MP or signing one of the petitions available online.
‘Thirteen people were arrested after we asked people to disperse from Tuesday’s protest.
‘Ten of them were aged between 19 and 25 – young people who clearly have a social conscience, but who may now face a criminal conviction which could impact on their whole futures and their chances of making a real difference in society.
‘I want to make it clear. Peaceful protestors will be given the opportunity to disperse, but Bristol will not tolerate violent behaviour and we’re here to prevent it.’
Earlier in the week Avon and Somerset Police released photos of people they wish to trace over the disorder.
Yesterday they released footage of a lit item being placed underneath a police van, with an officer still inside, along with a picture of the man police would like to identify in connection with the incident.
Urging people to stay at home, Ch Supt Armes said: ‘This is about public health and public safety at a time of pandemic’
Protestors are calling for an end to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which could see additional measures created to crackdown on demonstrations
Around 3,000 protestors gathered at Sunday’s demonstration, with fireworks let off in the street and little room for social distancing
The force is still looking to identify 17 people in connection with the unrest on Sunday night
The footage was released on the same day Avon and Somerst Police retracted claims that two officers had suffered broken bones amid the carnage.
A spokesman for the force told ITV: ‘At the time the Chief Constable did interviews on Monday morning, it was believed the officer may have suffered broken bones and a punctured lung.
‘Following further medical assessment, this was deemed not to be the case – but this officer’s injuries were serious enough to result in hospital treatment and a CT scan.
‘A second officer also suffered a suspected broken arm, but on further assessment this too was thankfully found not to be the case.’
An officer has described first hearing on the radio how colleagues were being injured outside the Bridewell police station.
They said: ‘I was aware from the radio that my colleagues were under attack outside the front of Bridewell police station where damage had been caused.
‘I could hear screaming and shouting from the officers as they were being attacked – a call was made for vehicles to be used to assist officers.
‘The only way to protect my colleagues was to place the vehicle across, side on, in front of them to offer protection.
‘There were glass bottles, rocks as big as fists, pallets, fences and other objects strewn across the road and being used against the police.
Ch Supt Carolyn Belafonte, who is overseeing the investigation into the disorder, said: ‘This officer’s account is just one of many we’ve gathered from our colleagues at the scene of this terrifying incident.
‘It’s upsetting to hear how colleagues feared for their lives that night and it strengthens our resolve to bring all those responsible to justice.
Newly released footage, taken during the violent ‘Kill the Bill’ disorder in the city on Sunday, shows the moment a lit item was placed under a police van while a police officer was inside
‘Our investigation is continuing at pace but it is painstaking work.
‘Our online gallery, which currently has 18 images within it, has been viewed more than 80,000 times since it was launched – and we’ve received more than 200 calls and around 280 evidential submissions from the public to date.. This is a phenomenal response and we’re grateful for every piece of information.
‘I would ask people to look at the latest image we have released and call us if you know who it is – or you can provide information via a dedicated form on our website.’
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.