Kill the Bill protesters have started gathering in Bristol ahead of another demonstration after a senior police chief warned they would ‘face the full weight of the law’ after earlier riots.
Hundreds of protesters faced-off with police on College Green in the city centre this evening to demonstrate against the Government’s controversial new policing bill which criminalises protests deemed a ‘public nuisance.’
Police said around 300 people joined a march through the city and the crowd headed towards Bridewell Street, the scene of Sunday’s riot.
A large police presence was on duty, including horses and dogs, and was preventing the protesters reaching Bridewell police station where police vans were torched and officers assaulted at the weekend.
The first demonstration held last Sunday started off peacefully with around 3,000 attending but rapidly deteriorated when around 500 demonstrators arrived at the police station.
Avon and Somerset Police is investigating assaults on 40 officers and one member of the media.
Nine people have been arrested in connection with the disorder, which saw officers attacked, police vehicles set on fire and the windows of a police station smashed.
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Hundreds of demonstrators stream past police vans in Bristol city centre on Friday evening during a ‘kill the bill’ demo. Today, National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt warned that large gatherings remained illegal under the Covid lockdown rules and suggested there were extremist agitators seeking to ‘hijack’ peaceful protests.
A demonstrator holds a sign which reads: ‘Bun Babylon,’ as mounted officers patrol the streets. In West Indian patois bun means burn, while Babylon refers to the state or the system, taken from Biblical references to the wicked city on the banks of the Euphrates
Police block off a road during the ‘Kill The Bill’ protest against The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in Bristol
Demonstrators holding protesters denouncing the legislation and referring to a ‘Tory police state’ are held up by activists in Bristol this evening
Officers prepare to keep the demonstrators at bay this evening by linking arms across the highway
Hundreds of demonstrators are seen pouring through the streets of Bristol this afternoon, the third such demonstration in the city centre since Sunday
A protester is seen spraying paint across a building in the city centre this afternoon as crowds gathered to demonstrate against new police legislation
Riot police hold up shields beside a van parked across the road as they face-off with demonstrators for a third time in a week
Protestors gather on College Green, Bristol ahead of the third ‘Kill the Bill’ protest against new policing powers this evening
A hooded protest holds a sign that says ‘Police lies cost lies’ as hundreds gathered on College Green in Bristol city centre this afternoon
Demonstrators hold signs urging the government to ‘kill the bill’, another holds a depiction of a pig – an insult which is used against police
A demonstrator holds a sign written on the underside of a skateboard as hundreds mass on College Green in the city centre
Police officers with riot helmets at the ready patrol through central Bristol this afternoon as demonstrators gathered again
Hundreds of protesters hold signs denouncing the government’s new bill as Bristol prepares for another night of demonstrations
Police said around 300 people joined a march through the city and the crowd headed towards Bridewell Street, the scene of Sunday’s riot. A large police presence was on duty, including horses and dogs, and was preventing the protesters reaching Bridewell police station where police vans were torched and officers assaulted at the weekend.
Pffocers stand guard to prevent demonstrators from making their way to Bridewell police station, the scene of the weekend’s riot
Officers stand guard in Bristol city centre, using manpower and vehicles to block the highway as demonstrators mass against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Today, National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt warned that large gatherings remained illegal under the Covid lockdown rules and suggested there were extremist agitators seeking to ‘hijack’ peaceful protests.
Mr Hewitt said that protesters arrived at Sunday’s demo ‘intent on causing violence and causing damage’ and that the people arrested were from ‘literally all over the United Kingdom’.
‘I would ask people planning to protest this weekend to think carefully and consider whether joining a large gathering outside, in the midst of a pandemic, and potentially being near the scene of violence like we saw last weekend, is something that is safe for them as individuals to do,’ he said.
‘And let me really be clear that any person who is identified committing such acts of violence as we saw can expect to face the full weight of the law.
‘You will have seen the number of images that Avon and Somerset Police have been putting out already, and they are working really hard with the Crown Prosecution Service as well.
‘And these people will be brought to justice, and already some of those have been taken through the courts and brought to justice, and indeed one of those that has been imprisoned was someone that was already on bail for assaulting police officers.’
A second protest took place on College Green on Tuesday night and resulted in 15 arrests.
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 occupy the streets 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.
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.
Protesters march through the city centre on Friday to demonstrate against the new police powers
Demonstrators standing on elevated platforms look out across a sea of other protesters in Bristol city centre this evening
Demonstrators hold a placard which says, ‘They speak in violence, we speak in peace’, in the city centre this evening
Police officers with helmets clipped to their waists, along with batons, survey the scene on College Green, Bristol, on Friday afternoon
Police officers stand watch on College Green this afternoon as young people gathered to demonstrate against the new policing bill
An officer looks out over hundreds of youngsters preparing to protest against the new policing legislation
Police are seen at College green prior to the protest on Friday afternoon
Police officers with helmets and batons ready stand watch on College Green this afternoon
Police stand watch as young people go about their business in the student area of the city
‘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.
‘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.
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
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
‘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.
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.
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
‘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.