Two police officers 'seriously injured' after Bristol protests turn violent

21 March 2021, 18:48 | Updated: 22 March 2021, 08:46

By Maddie Goodfellow

A demonstration about plans to give the police more powers to deal with non-violent protests has turned violent, with officers suffering broken arms and ribs during clashes.

Hundreds of people gathered at College Green in Bristol before marching to a police station on nearby Bridewell Street.

A total of 12 officers were injured during the unrest, two of them seriously, John Apter told LBC's Nick Ferrari this morning.

Pictures showed graffiti being sprayed on an Avon and Somerset Police vehicle and it being rocked side to side by protesters.

Other pictures showed mounted officers intervening to disperse the large crowd that had gathered outside the New Bridewell police station.

Police said missiles had been thrown at them, including a firework, and that they have been verbally abused. Officers also said one of their vehicles was sprayed with graffiti and rocked from side to side.

Demonstrators were seen smashing the police station's windows in with skateboards while a police van's tyre was set on fire but quickly put out by officers.

Police Federation representatives said Avon and Somerset officers had suffered broken arms and ribs after being attacked by rioters.

Protester smashes a window with a stick outside Bridewell Police Station
Protester smashes a window with a stick outside Bridewell Police Station. Picture: PA
Pictures showed graffiti being sprayed on an Avon and Somerset Police vehicle
Pictures showed graffiti being sprayed on an Avon and Somerset Police vehicle. Picture: PA

John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "Horrendous scenes in Bristol.

"Number of officers badly injured, police vehicles damaged and a police station under attack.

"This is not protest, it's just mindless violence. Thoughts are with my colleagues."

"The protest is now focused on Bridewell Street so we'd advise motorists to avoid this area," a police spokesman said.

"We're aware of a small number of incidences of criminal damage during the afternoon, including graffiti, and these will be investigated.

"Officers are continuing to deal with a smaller number of protesters in Bridewell Street.

"They've had projectiles thrown at them, including a firework, and have been verbally abused.

"This is unacceptable behaviour and those responsible for offences will be identified and brought to justice."

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Police vans have been set on fire at the protests
Police vans have been set on fire at the protests. Picture: PA
Mounted officers intervened to disperse the large crowd that had gathered outside the New Bridewell police station
Mounted officers intervened to disperse the large crowd that had gathered outside the New Bridewell police station. Picture: PA

Homes secretary Priti Patel tweeted: "Thuggery and disorder by a minority will never be tolerated.

"Our police officers put themselves in harms way to protect us all.

"My thoughts this evening are with those police officers injured."

Labour's shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: "Awful, shocking scenes in Bristol. There is no excuse whatsoever for this violence.

"Thinking of those officers who have been injured, and their families, and wishing them a swift recovery."

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said: "We have faced times of great confrontation, particularly surrounding Black Lives Matter and the events that followed. We have had numerous protests.

"Our police, city representatives and I have been able to point out with pride that we have faced these moments of conflict without the physical conflict that others have experienced.

"Those who decided to turn today's protest into a physical confrontation and smash our city have robbed us of this.

"What they have done has more to do with self-gratification than it has to do with the protection and advancement of those of us from communities most likely to be marginalised and mistreated by our political and legal systems."

Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West, said: "The scenes in Bristol this evening are completely unacceptable.

"You don't campaign for the right to peaceful protest by setting police vans on fire or graffitiing buildings.

"Avon and Somerset Police were on duty today to facilitate a peaceful protest not to deal with criminal behaviour."

And Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire tweeted: "This is absolutely unacceptable. The scenes of violence and direct attack on the police in Bristol city centre will distress most people including anyone who believes in defending the right to peaceful democratic protest."

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.

Mass gatherings are currently banned under the coronavirus legislation and anyone breaching the regulations could be fined.

Many were wearing face masks and carried placards, saying: "Say no to UK police state" and "Freedom to protest is fundamental to democracy" and "Kill the Bill".

Chief Supt Will White, Gold commander from Somerset and Avon police, said: “What started out as a peaceful protest has been turned by a small minority into a violent disorder.

“These scenes are absolutely disgraceful and they will be widely condemned by people across the city. There can never be any excuse for wanton disorder.

“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. These are men and women out there with the intention of serving and protecting the public – they should never be subjected to assaults or abuse in this way.

“At least two police vehicles have been set on fire and damage has been caused to the outside of the station. Protestors are not inside the building.

“We have requested mutual aid from neighbouring forces to bring this incident to a safe conclusion.

“All those involved in this criminal behaviour will be identified and brought to justice. There will be significant consequences for behaviour such as this.”