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PROTESTERS bore the brunt of violence at a Bristol demo, campaigners claimed today, as Avon police pledged to launch the “biggest appeal for wanted suspects” in its history.
Twenty-one officers were injured on Sunday as police vans were set alight and station windows smashed during a protest against the government’s policing Bill.
While reports have focused on injuries sustained by police, campaigners insist that it was protesters who “bore the brunt” of the violence.
In a statement, feminist activists Sisters Uncut said: “Police tactics, including kettling, the use of batons and dispersal techniques such as horse charges are violent in both intent and effect.”
The group said that protesters were “forcefully” arrested for shaking their heads at an officer during the Bristol demo, adding “it is clear that it is the police who turn protest into violence.”
Avon & Somerset Police said it is scouring an “enormous” amount of footage from Sunday to make retrospective arrests, saying its investigation could result in the largest number of images for wanted suspects in its history. The force denies that it triggered the violence.
Bristol resident Sophia Purdy-Moore, who joined Sunday’s protest, said she witnessed police in riot gear hitting protesters round the head who were throwing bottles at officers.
“People at the back were sitting down, saying this was a peaceful protest to defuse the situation, but they kept hitting people round the head,” she told the Morning Star.
“It looked at one point like their horses were going to charge into the crowd; there were children in the crowd, and it didn’t feel very proportionate.”
Responding to the Bristol demo, Extinction Rebellion urged the government to address crises rather than clamping down on protest.
“When a government, instead of healing society, sets out to sow division, it cannot claim innocence when the result is violence,” the group said.
The scenes on Sunday have been widely condemned, with Home Secretary Priti Patel accusing some protesters of thuggery, while Bristol's mayor said those involved in the violence were selfish.
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