Hundreds sit down outside Bristol police station in 'kill the bill' protest

A crowd of people gathered in Bristol on Friday evening for a third “kill the bill” demonstration within a week.

Hundreds have sat down in the street near Bridewell police station, the focus of rioting on Sunday evening and Monday morning.

Several rows of police were standing between the demonstrators and the police station near the centre of the city.

Some of the officers were holding small round shields, and five police vans could be seen behind approximately three rows of officers. The demonstrators could be heard chanting “Who do you protect?” and “Justice for Sarah”.

Protesters met up at two parks in the city, Castle Park and College Green, and marched through the city centre and along Park Street towards Bristol University’s buildings.

There is growing anger in Bristol not only at the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill but at the way protests against it are being policed in the city.

Officers stand guard during ‘kill the bill’ demonstration in Bristol.
Officers stand guard during ‘kill the bill’ demonstration in Bristol. Photograph: Jon Rowley/EPA

The Bristol protest on Friday was one of 13 planned in towns and cities in England over the weekend, with opponents of the new bill also due to gather in Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Brighton, Cambridge, Cardiff, Winchester, Bath, Portsmouth, Lancaster, Nottingham and Kingston upon Thames.

Earlier on Friday, Avon and Somerset police apologised for wrongly claiming that two officers suffered broken bones during the disturbances on Sunday.

It said in a tweet: “Our initial information suggested two officers had broken bones. Thankfully the injuries – while still serious – did not involve fractures. We believed the information had been verified but it had not, and while we apologise for that there was no intention to mislead.”

Chanting and placards at Friday’s protest in Bristol expressed contempt for the bill but also criticised police “lies”.

There is also anger that a peaceful sit-down protest on Tuesday night, at which the focus was the potential for the bill to criminalise Gypsy and Traveller communities, ended with officers in riot gear moving in and arresting 13 people.

On Friday Ch Supt Claire Armes, the force’s head of operational support, said: “We are aware that some people may be intending to protest in Bristol and Bath this weekend.

“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. 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.

“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 protesters will be given the opportunity to disperse, but Bristol will not tolerate violent behaviour and we’re here to prevent it.”

Momentum is gathering in opposition to the new crime bill, which is being opposed by a broad range of protest groups, as well as civil society organisations.

Protesters against the bill are due to return to the streets of London and other cities the following weekend, with activists organising under the slogan #KillTheBill calling for a national day of action on 3 April.

Also in London, activists have opened a #KillTheBill squat in the disused Cavendish Road police station in Clapham, which is situated yards from the last place that Sarah Everard was seen alive.


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