Dispersal order issued in Bristol amid 'Kill the Bill protests' across England

3 April 2021, 18:37 | Updated: 4 April 2021, 11:58

By Joe Cook

A dispersal order has been issued in Bristol as "Kill the Bill" protests were held across England against plans to increase police powers.

Thousands of people marched in towns and cities across the nation despite the coronavirus lockdown.

They came out to demonstrate against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests - including those considered too noisy or a nuisance, with those convicted liable to fines or jail terms.

Throughout the day, thousands of people took part in what various police forces described as "peaceful" Kill the Bill protests in regions including London, Newcastle, Birmingham, Liverpool, Dorset and Bristol.

Dozens of arrests were made after police clashed with protesters in the capital, as thousands rallied in cities across the nation on Saturday.

As of 8:45pm, the Metropolitan Police said 26 people had been arrested, with 10 officers receiving minor injuries.

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Earlier on Saturday, the force announced they had moved to the "enforcement stage" of their operation as people ignored Covid rules.

"Officers continue to engage and we urge those who remain in the area to leave and return home," they added.

Meanwhile, in Bristol around 100 protesters briefly blocked the M32 in both directions after a static rave-like protest turned into a march at around 9pm.

Avon and Somerset Police tweeted: "The group have marched onto the M32 and are currently sat on the carriageway.

"The motorway has subsequently been closed to inbound traffic at Junction 3 in the interests of safety."

They later said the road was reopened after protesters turned around and marched back into the city centre.

More than 1,000 people attended Bristol's Kill the Bill protest, according to the force.

A group of around 500 people gathered in central Bristol with drinks and music before a section split off to block the M32.
A group of around 500 people gathered in central Bristol with drinks and music before a section split off to block the M32. Picture: PA
Protesters blocked the M32 motorway in Bristol at around 9.30pm
Protesters blocked the M32 motorway in Bristol at around 9.30pm. Picture: PA

In London, projectiles were thrown as police pushed protesters away from Parliament and at least one officer was injured as officers worked to unblock the road for a McDonald's lorry to pass.

Protesters are currently marching through central London, amidst a heavy police presence, with officers positioned around the statue of Winston Churchill.

Footage on social media shows running scuffles between police and protests as officers instruct the crowd to go home.

Demonstrators were also seen knocking over bins and road-work barriers as they ran through the West End.

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Scuffles have broken out between police and Kill the Bill protesters in central London.
Scuffles have broken out between police and Kill the Bill protesters in central London. Picture: PA
Police have been stationed around the Churchill statue at Parliament Square.
Police have been stationed around the Churchill statue at Parliament Square. Picture: PA

The arrests so far have been for offences including assault on police and breach of the peace, the Met said. One woman was was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon after a knife was recovered.

Commander Ade Adelekan, who led the Met policing operation, said: “The vast majority of people who turned out in central London today did so while adhering to social distancing. They engaged with my officers when required and left when asked – I would like to thank them for doing so.

“However, a small minority did not engage despite the repeated efforts of officers on the ground. This left us with no option but to move to an enforcement stage and arrests have been made.

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“This has been another challenging day for officers on the ground and I want to thank them for their efforts throughout the course of today.

“We remain in the middle of a global pandemic and we have made great progress in controlling the spread of the virus; we will not allow the selfish actions of a small number of people to put Londoners progress in jeopardy.”

Demonstrators drag road works fences into the street during clashes with police.
Demonstrators drag road works fences into the street during clashes with police. Picture: PA
Police restrain a demonstrator during clashes following a 'Kill the Bill' protest.
Police restrain a demonstrator during clashes following a 'Kill the Bill' protest. Picture: PA

Earlier in the day thousands of people marched through central London to Parliament Square where speeches were given.

Those addressing the crowd at the Kill the Bill rally included former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Corbyn described the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill as a "very dangerous, slippery slope," and defended the right to protest.

"If we don't protest, things don't change," he said, which drew cheers and applause from the crowd.

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Large protests have also been seen in other UK cities, with over 1,000 gathering in Bristol for the fifth Kill the Bill demonstration in two weeks.

Avon and Somerset Police said: "About 500 protestors remain by the Cenotaph in Bristol city centre following the end of what was a peaceful march.

"Police liaison officers continue to engage with those there."

Videos on social media showed protesters dancing and drinking as officers watch on.

Several hundred people also gathered in Newcastle, amidst a low-key response from Northumbria Police.

The protests in Leeds, Northampton and Plymouth also passed off peacefully.