Police are braced for another night of violence in Bristol this evening as hundreds of demonstrators gather for their fourth Kill The Bill protest.
Activists have arrived at College Green for the fourth rally held in the city since March 21, when a ‘mob of animals’ smashed through the windows of a police station and two officers were left seriously injured.
Police have so far made 25 arrests in connection with the demonstration, which was launched following outrage at the government’s proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Protesting is now legal in England following a change in Covid-19 lockdown rules which came into force yesterday, but organisers are required to submit risk assessments and ensure social distancing.
Earlier tonight, police confirmed that they had ‘engaged with a number of people’ at the rally, with ‘around 100 people’ in attendance so far.
Demonstrators hold a placard reading ‘4 protests in 9 days? Maybe this is a sign!’ during tonight’s protest at College Green in Bristol
Three demonstrators wearing face masks are seen sitting on the grass at College Green during tonight’s protest. Police confirmed earlier that around 100 people were in attendance
People take part in a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest in Bristol tonight. Protesting is now legal in England following a change in Covid-19 lockdown rules which came into force yesterday
Demonstrators are seen holding placards during a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest against the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in Bristol this evening
In a statement made at around 6.45pm, Avon and Somerset Police said: ‘Our officers have engaged with a number of people who have gathered on College Green in #Bristol for a planned protest.
‘Around 100 people are in attendance so far. Our aim is to facilitate a peaceful protest which complies with the legislation.’
A spokeswoman for the force previously told the Bristol Post: ‘We would encourage the organisers to engage with us.
‘We maintain the risk (from Covid) is still there and would encourage people to find alternative ways to express their views.
‘But there are policing plans in place to manage any protests that do go ahead.’
It comes as officers were today appealing for help identifying 14 protesters they believe were involved in the first Kill the Bill riot on March 21.
Violent scenes had erupted last Sunday when around 3,000 demonstrators took to the streets to protest the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
The legislation would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance, with those convicted under the bill liable to fines or jail terms.
Demonstrators hold placards during a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest. Earlier tonight, police confirmed that they had ‘engaged with a number of people’ at the rally
Activists pictured at tonight’s rally. Although protesting is now legal in England, organisers are required to submit risk assessments and ensure social distancing
A protestor seen holding a placard reading ‘protest women not statues’ at tonight’s Kill the Bill demo in Bristol
A man wearing a face mask holds a placards reading: ‘Who are you protecting?’ at tonight’s rally on College Green
CAN PROTESTS TAKE PLACE IN ENGLAND UNDER COVID RULES?
Britons are permitted to gather in groups larger than six for the purpose of ‘Covid-secure protests’ under updated lockdown rules.
The guidance had previously outlawed any large gatherings, meaning the previous three Bristol rallies weren’t permitted under Covid restrictions.
However, an update which came into force on Monday allows people to gather in larger groups for protest if the organiser has ‘taken the required precautions.’
This includes completing a risk assessment for the gathering.
The updated guidance reads: ‘You may gather in larger groups… for the purpose of Covid-Secure protests or picketing where the organiser has taken the required precautions, including the completion of a risk assessment.’
Last night, Superintendent Mark Runacres had urged the organisers of today’s protest to contact officers so they can ensure the demonstration will take place ‘lawfully.’
He said: ‘For tomorrow and Saturday’s protests to happen lawfully, there needs to be engagement from organisers
‘It’s not like it can just happen the same way it did pre-Covid, but we are happy and keen to work with organisers.
‘We will look to agree and identify issues around timing, duration, route, end-point and how we disperse at the end. We want to facilitate the protest through the day.
‘That’s what we did throughout last year but for the recent protests we’ve had no contact from organisers.’
It is understood no one has stepped forward as an organiser for the rallies.
Officers today released images of 14 people they would like to speak to regarding the ‘violent disorder’ that took place in Bristol on March 21.
Senior Investigating Officer DCI James Riccio said: ‘Our investigation is continuing at pace and we continue to make significant progress in what is a really challenging inquiry.
‘We’ve had fantastic support from the public so far and for that we’re incredibly grateful.
‘I’d like to once again ask for their help to look at our gallery and see if they recognise any of the people in the images.’
There have so far been 25 arrests in connection with the unrest, including nine men aged between 19 and 44 who were arrested on suspicion of violent disorder on the night.
Police are appealing for help identifying 14 protesters they believe were involved in a chaotic ‘Kill the Bill’ riot
Officers have released images of 14 people they would like to speak to regarding the ‘violent disorder’
Police have so-far made 25 arrests in connection with the rally. Pictured: People officers would like to identify
Avon and Somerset Police previously shared photographs of ten others they hoped to speak with, some of whom have since been identified
The week of chaos in Bristol began on March 21, when around 3,000 demonstrators took to the streets to protest the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Pictured: People during the protest
Four women, aged between 18 and 20, were then arrested between Thursday and Friday, also on suspicion of violent disorder.
Later, police arrested another three people, two men and a woman aged between 21 and 30, on suspicion of violent disorder during a third protest on March 26.
The rally, which followed a second night of violence on March 23, saw some 300 people join a march through Bristol against the controversial bill before the crowd swelled to more than 1,000.
And on Saturday, officers detained three men and two women – aged between 19 and 30 – on suspicion of violent disorder.
The legislation would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance, with those convicted under the bill liable to fines or jail terms
Pictured: A man police would like to speak with in connection with ‘violent disorder’ in Bristol
One of the men was also detained on suspicion of arson.
A further four people were arrested in the same case between Sunday and Monday.
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.
‘Avon and Somerset Police Federation are attending stations to support officers. We have officers with suspected broken arms and ribs. This is so wrong.’
Chief Superintendent Will White of Avon and Somerset Police said: ‘What started out as a peaceful protest has been turned by a small minority into violent disorder.
Senior Investigating Officer DCI James Riccio said: ‘Our investigation is continuing at pace and we continue to make significant progress in what is a really challenging inquiry’
He added: ‘We’ve had fantastic support from the public so far and for that we’re incredibly grateful’
Timeline of the Bristol protests:
Sunday, March 21:
Around 3,000 were protesting the new policing bill peacefully on College Green before a hardcore of 500 activists arrived outside Bridewell Police Station in Bristol city centre.
They torched police vans, smashed windows of buildings and attacked officers.
Avon and Somerset Police is investigating assaults on 40 officers and one member of the media.
Tuesday, March 23:
Two days after the riot around 100 demonstrators gathered on College Green in the heart of the city’s student area.
On this occasion there was no rioting, but one witness described officers’ dispersal of the protesters as ‘quite heavy-handed’, which was ‘shocking to see.’
Officers made 15 arrests.
Friday, March 26:
Ten arrests were made after what police called unacceptable ‘violent conduct’ at the third Kill the Bill demonstration in Bristol.
Some 300 people initially joined a protest march through the city centre against the Government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on Friday night, before the crowd swelled to more than 1,000 as tempers flared.
‘Officers have been subjected to considerable levels of abuse and violence. One suffered a broken arm and another suffered broken ribs. Both have been taken to hospital. At least two police vehicles have been set on fire and damage has been caused to the outside of the station.’
He added: ‘We have requested mutual aid from neighbouring forces to bring this incident to a safe conclusion.’
Detective Chief Superintendent Carolyn Belafonte previously said the investigation into scenes on March 21 will ‘undoubtedly be one of the largest in Avon and Somerset Police’s history.’
She said: ‘More than 100 officers and staff continue to work on the inquiry which is being led by our Major Crime Investigation Team.
‘Hundreds of hours of digital material has already been reviewed and images of the first 10 people detectives want to talk to about Sunday’s events have been identified and published on a gallery on our website.
‘Officers and staff are working their way through images and footage as quickly as they can but with more than two terabytes worth of CCTV footage as well as nearly 100 officers’ body worn video cameras and more than 100 videos already sent in by members of the public to review, this will take a considerable amount of time.
‘We expect to release images of many more people in the coming days and ask anyone who recognises anyone to contact us. We’d also ask anyone who recognises themselves in the images to pick up the phone and dial 101 or visit their nearest police station so we can arrange for officers to talk to you to get your account of events.’
Det Ch Supt added: ‘The incident attracted worldwide attention and we continue to be humbled by the incredible support shown to us from the public, as well as from organisations and agencies across the city and beyond.
‘The public response in particular has been nothing short of amazing and I want all those who’ve shown us support and kindness to know how much we appreciate it.
A demonstrator skateboards in front of a burning police vehicle during a protest against a new proposed policing bill, in Bristol, Sunday
A demonstrator gestures in front of a burning police vehicle during a protest against a new proposed policing bill, in Bristol
Riot police, with police horses and police vehicles, move down Rupert Street in Bristol towards protesters
Demonstrators stand near a burning police vehicle during a protest against a new proposed policing bill, in Bristol
A demonstrator gestures near a burning police vehicle as two other vans arrive at the scene to drive protesters away
Protester smashes a 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
‘In addition to asking for help to identify the people in the images we’re releasing, we also continue to ask people to submit any footage or photos they may have captured of Sunday’s events. We’ve set up a dedicated form on our website where people can submit material or provide us with information.
‘Other lines of enquiry are also being progressed, including forensic evidence, which will help us identify those involved. We may have only arrested eight people so for but I guarantee we’re wholly committed to tracking down those who carried out offences and with the help of the public we will be making more arrests very soon.’
Anyone who recognises those pictured is asked get in touch with police on 101.
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.