Bristol burns once more as Tesco riots return to streets of Stokes Croft

Police launched an eviction raid on a Bristol squat yesterday after riots raged for a second time in a suburb that has become a focal point for anger against heavy-handed policing.

More than 30 people were arrested after another night of violence in Stokes Croft, a bohemian suburb of Bristol that is vehemently opposed to the opening of a Tesco store.

Last week, a protest against the supermarket giant turned into running street battles as demonstrators clashed with baton-wielding riot officers. Somerset and Avon Police claimed they had uncovered a petrol bomb plot to attack the store but locals rubbished this and accused officers of using wildly disproportionate force to quell a peaceful anti-Tesco movement.

A broadly peaceful second protest on Thursday evening turned violent shortly after midnight when a small group of masked protesters threw bottles at police officers. Witnesses say police units responded with baton and horse charges, sparking more rioting that continued through the night.

Last week's protests centred on the opening of the new Tesco store, but many local residents of Stokes Croft yesterday voiced concerns that their demonstrations had been hijacked by outsiders keen to fight with the police.

"After last week, tensions were extremely high and there is a lot of anger at the police response," said Nick Martin, owner of the Left Bank Bar. "But it seemed there were many young people last night who came from outside the area to throw things at the police and cause trouble."

Luke Champion, a 32-year-old NHS worker beaten by police last week, said: "I saw a horrible side of the police last Thursday but this time around I think they were pretty restrained, considering how a small group of masked people were determined to cause violence. It's really sad."

Somerset and Avon Police yesterday defended its actions, saying officers had to respond after being pelted with bottles, rocks and other missiles by masked demonstrators who peeled away from the main crowd and headed to the centre of the city.

"We took swift and robust action to try to prevent further violence and damage to property," said Assistant Chief Constable Rod Hansen. "I am satisfied that our tactics were appropriate and proportionate... the officers involved acted professionally and with great restraint given the threat and personal danger they faced."

But some of those present said fired-up riot officers used baton charges against peaceful demonstrators. "I was hit a number of times across the leg and had nothing to do with violence," said a 31-year-old man who asked not to be named. "Sure some were spoiling for a fight, but so were the police. They were like animals."

Owen Pettinger, a 28-year-old local resident who works in marketing, said: "There were some troublemakers but the whole police response was so heavy handed. Anyone in their way, whoever you were, was cleared. Couldn't they have used snatch squads just to go after the rioters?"

At one point, residents trying to stop the violence sat down between police and lines of youths who had begun throwing bottles at officers. Claire Milne, a campaigner from No to Tesco in Stokes Croft, said: "We are devastated with what has happened since the arrival of Tesco and we will work hard to try and find ways to ensure that our community returns to its vibrant self."

Riot officers returned to the area at 9.30 yesterday morning to evict people from Telepathic Heights, a three-storey squat that has become a focal point of the protests. As police moved in a few squatters took to the roof and threw tiles at the officers below. It took more than four hours for the last holdouts to be brought down and arrested.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat