Home secretary Priti Patel has condemned “Kill the Bill” demonstrators in Bristol as “thugs” who were “intent on causing trouble” after 10 arrests were made and video emerged of police apparently targeting a journalist.
She was backed by prime minister Boris Johnson who said a “mob” had carried out “disgraceful attacks against police officers.”
The violence began after hundreds gathered on College Green in the city, before some sat or stood around Bridewell Police Station late on Friday.
It was the third protest against the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill in a week. Videos shared to social media show riot police pushing individuals to the ground with their shields.
Daily Mirror journalist Matthew Dresch says he was “assaulted” by police despite telling them that he was a reporter.
Ms Patel said: “I am disgusted by the disorder in Bristol and the violence being directed towards the police. I’m in no doubt the silent, law-abiding majority will be appalled by the actions of this criminal minority.
“Despite repeated warnings to disperse, it’s clear these thugs were only intent on causing trouble. I am receiving regular updates and the police have my full support.”
Mr Johnson said: “Last night saw disgraceful attacks against police officers in Bristol. Our officers should not have to face having bricks, bottles and fireworks being thrown at them by a mob intent on violence and causing damage to property. The police and the city have my full support.”
Avon and Somerset Police said glass bottles, bricks and eggs were thrown at officers and fireworks were launched at its mounted division, with one horse being daubed with paint.
Footage from the scene shows demonstrators, , some sitting, others with their arms up, chanting “we are peaceful, what are you” as officers use riot shields to push them back – in one instance using the edge of a shield to hit a person who was on the ground.
Another video appears to show a police officer in riot gear forcefully pushing a woman to the ground.
In a tweet, Avon and Somerset Police said: “Protesters are also pulling at officers’ shields while lasers are being shone in their faces.
“We will not tolerate violent disorder. Arrests have been made.”
Mounted officers were deployed, as well as police dogs which barked and strained at their leads as they advanced towards the crowd, pushing them back in the protest.
In one incident, as the crowd began to dwindle, what appeared to be a small firework could be seen being let off near the feet of charging police horses, while officers were also the target of flares and other items being hurled including traffic cones.
Police have previously warned people to stay indoors while coronavirus restrictions are in force.
Friday’s protest marks the third demonstration held in Bristol against the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
The legislation 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, with those convicted under the proposed legislation able to face a fine or jail.
However, the protests come amid anger over the case of Sarah Everard and the heavy-handed policing of a vigil to mark her death in Clapham on 13 March.
Ms Everard went missing as she walked home from a friend’s flat on the evening of 3 March. Wayne Couzens, 48, a serving Metropolitan Police officer, has been charged with her kidnap and murder.
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