London, Mar 22 (PTI) Police in the south-west England city of Bristol said on Monday that overnight seven arrests were made for violent disorder and possession of an offensive weapon and a full investigation is now underway after its officers came under attack on Sunday when a rally against plans to increase policing powers for dealing with protests turned violent.
The “Kill the Bill” event in the city witnessed a police station attacked, officers suffer broken bones and a number of police vehicles set alight.
The local Avon and Somerset Police said a total of 20 officers were assaulted or injured and two of them were taken to hospital after suffering broken bones. One of them also suffered a punctured lung.
“Let’s be clear, the wanton violence and destruction had nothing to do with protest – it was committed by those looking for an excuse to commit disorder. The scenes we witnessed yesterday were shameful and I know will be condemned by the whole city,” said Chief Constable Andy Marsh.
“Twenty of our brave officers suffered various injuries – including two who suffered more serious injuries which needed hospital treatment. I was at a Bristol station last night and can tell you the feeling of anguish was felt by all our officers and staff at seeing colleagues injured while on the frontline,” he said.
Marsh revealed that a 'tactical decision' was made to deal with these criminals retrospectively and not make a significant number of arrests on Sunday night, which would have impacted significantly on resources at the scene and created a greater risk of damage to property and injuries to the reduced number of officers left to deal with the disorder.
“I cannot condemn enough the scenes of violence and destruction that we witnessed yesterday and I know these feelings are felt by the majority of the city and beyond,” said Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens.
“I support the police’s tactical decision to deal with these criminal incidents retrospectively and a police investigation is now underway to gather CCTV, Body Worn Video, social media content and other photos and videos sent in by local people. Those who clearly acted with intent to cause damage and destruction showed reckless disregard for the safety of local people, police officers and the general community. The financial cost of this to the public is also going to be substantial,” she said.
The force has said that it will now launch one of the biggest appeals for wanted suspects that it has ever done and that there will be “significant consequences”.
Earlier, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel described the events as “unacceptable”.
'Thuggery and disorder by a minority will never be tolerated. Our police officers put themselves in harm's way to protect us all,' the minister said.
Workers from Bristol Waste spent Monday morning removing broken glass, debris and offensive graffiti from the streets.
Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said the violence had made people already dealing with inequality in the city less safe and questioned whether the perpetrators were from Bristol or were 'protest tourists'.
'This is a shameful day in an incredible year for Bristol. These people should feel shame,' he said.
Several hundred people are said to have congregated outside Bridewell police station in Bridewell Street, Bristol, since Sunday afternoon. Police said missiles had been thrown at them, including a firework, and that they had been verbally abused.
Campaigners staged a number of anti-lockdown protests against a new Bill tabled in Parliament, which would give the police more powers to deal with non-violent demonstrations.
Mass gatherings are currently banned under coronavirus legislation and anyone breaching regulations could be fined, though there have been growing calls for the law to be changed to allow peaceful demonstrations. PTI AK IND IND