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AT LEAST seven people were arrested following the “Kill the Bill” demonstrations in Bristol on Sunday, after which a police station was smashed up and police vans set alight.
Thousands marched from College Green to Castle Park against moves to give police greater powers to shut down peaceful protests.
The protest started peacefully. Later in the afternoon, some 500 protesters decided to march to a police station in Bridewell, central Bristol. About 200 sat on the ground and chanted.
Police then arrived with horses, dogs and riot gear. Protesters say officers triggered the subsequent clashes by using force on people sitting on the ground.
Bristol Anarchist Federation said in a statement that officers “kicked folks on the floor,” and “hit a young woman sat on the floor, hands raised, telling them this was a peaceful protest.”
One of the protesters, who did not want to be named, told the Morning Star that some individuals were pepper-sprayed.
“People were defending themselves against police aggression and were angry about the police violence that goes on every day in the UK,” he said. “That spilled onto the streets today.”
“What happened last night shows people are willing to stand up and fight as part of a long struggle to stop the policing Bill, which is the most draconian piece of anti-protest legislation since the 1990s,” the protester said.
“We need to stand in solidarity with everyone involved and those who were arrested.”
But Avon and Somerset Police Chief Constable Andy Marsh said the protest had been “hijacked by extremists,” claiming “we certainly didn’t trigger this.”
He said 12 police vehicles had been damaged, including two that were set on fire, and “significant damage” caused to the New Bridewell police station.
The force said 20 police officers were injured, including two seriously.
Six people have since been arrested for violent disorder and one for possession of an offensive weapon. Avon police have said further arrests will be made.
Politicians from all sides have condemned the scenes on Sunday evening.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said “thuggery and disorder” would not be tolerated.
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds described the scenes as awful and shocking and Bristol mayor Marvin Rees said the violence was counterproductive to the campaign against the policing Bill.
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