Police arrest 14 as latest ‘Kill the Bill’ protest concludes in Bristol
Fourteen people have been arrested as police wound up a demonstration in Bristol just two days after another protest which descended into rioting in the city.
Specially trained public order officers from Avon and Somerset Constabulary, British Transport Police, and the Devon and Cornwall, Gloucestershire and Welsh forces were deployed on Tuesday night (March 23) to College Green, where police said around 130 people had gathered earlier in the evening.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary tweeted at about 2.40am that the protest “has now concluded after officers enforced Covid-19 legislation”.
It was the latest ‘Kill the Bill’ protest in the city against the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will see the police handed new powers to tackle demonstrations.
Shortly before 11pm, police said protesters had been moved off College Green but that a “significant number” remained on Deanery Road “and continue to refuse to leave the area”.
The force tweeted: “Officers will take proportionate action to disperse crowds. They are not containing anyone and we continue to urge people to move on.”
About 90 minutes later, police reminded the public that gatherings were not permitted, adding that demonstrators “risk spreading the virus further”.
A later statement said 14 people were arrested for offences including breaches of Covid-19 legislation and obstruction of a highway, with one arrest in connection Sunday’s violent disorder.
Chief Superintendent Claire Armes said: “Officers had engaged with protestors and asked them to disperse, but tents and a sound system were set up so it was abundantly clear they were intent on remaining at the location, in spite of legislation in place to protect public health.
“After the scenes of violence witnessed in the city at the weekend it was necessary to bring in additional resources from our neighbouring forces to ensure the protest was safely brought to a swift conclusion.
“Throughout the operation officers continued to urge protestors to move on – at no time were they contained – but there came a time when enforcement was necessary as gatherings are still not permitted.”
A YouTube livestream appearing to be from the demonstration showed large numbers of police with some officers on horseback and others with dogs. Shouts of “Our streets” and “Shame on You” could be heard.
Chief Supt Armes said: “It’s disappointing that officers needed to take this action on a day we should be remembering all those who’ve lost their lives to Covid-19 over the past year. The communities of Bristol have made too many sacrifices and worked so hard to defeat this virus, it’s unacceptable for people to insult their efforts in this way.”
Meanwhile, police investigating a riot that marred Sunday’s protest in Bristol released images of ten people they wish to trace.
Violence had erupted in the city centre at the weekend, which saw a police station attacked, 21 officers injured and vehicles set alight.
Around 3,000 people attended the peaceful demonstration on College Green but events turned violent after around 500 people descended on the New Bridewell police station.
Detective Chief Superintendent Carolyn Belafonte said: “The investigation into Sunday’s disgraceful scenes of violence will undoubtedly be one of the largest in Avon and Somerset Police’s history.
“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.
“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.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson led the condemnation of the riot describing the scenes as “unacceptable”, while Home Secretary Priti Patel said “thuggery and disorder” would never be tolerated.
Andy Marsh, chief constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, said the demonstration had been “hijacked” by several hundred “extremists”.
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.
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.