By Zoë Crowther, Students' Union Correspondent 2018-19
On Wednesday 19 June, the Council put the Bearpit on lockdown and issued squatters with eviction notices to leave immediately.
This action came after a man was left with facial injuries in an attack at the roundabout, with the Council stating that it needed to respond to ‘escalating anti-social behaviour'.
Bristol student Joe Maspo, who was at the scene at around 3 pm, said: ‘They had fenced off the subway entrances, the tunnels themselves, and the regular fence that encircles the roundabout with some section chain fencing.
‘The squatters had all been evicted by that point, but some were still in the area. Obviously people were upset, but it felt relatively civil, save for one man who was shouting and confrontational with security and the police, and was later arrested.
‘There were a lot of private security agents, maybe 15-20 in total, in place both on the sidewalk and in the pit itself, in addition to a few police officers, which looked a bit excessive, but might have just been remnants of the initial eviction process.’
The Bearpit and the subways under the roundabout remain closed to pedestrians, and the Council is currently removing structures and containers from the site in order to discourage squatters from returning, including the Bearritos bus. The notorious bear sculpture, however, will stay put.
Marvin Rees, the Mayor of Bristol, gave the following statement: ‘Today we took action to secure the Bearpit so we can begin to make the area safer for everyone.
‘There is an urgent need for us to respond to escalating anti-social behaviour, increasing crime and calls from the public and the police to improve safety in the area.
‘Many of us have experienced some degree of housing that doesn’t meet our needs or housing that is insecure. These experiences are among the many reasons we set out very ambitious targets on housing. We empathise with anyone that finds themselves in a difficult situation.
Bristol City Council has “secured” the city's #Bearpit roundabout from squatters.— ITV News WestCountry (@itvwestcountry) June 19, 2019
Mayor Marvin Rees said the group - who spoke to ITV News in the video below in early April - had created a “toxic and dangerous environment”.
More here: https://t.co/WZwyl4Ot8G pic.twitter.com/C2YQEfXnIy
‘We thank those squatters who left of their own accord and we are continuing to work with the many organisations in the city working on homelessness to offer them and all who find themselves without a home, the support they need. We will do the very best we can to help them.
‘I recognise that people feel very passionately about the Bearpit and I hope we can work together to create a space everyone can enjoy and feel safe in. There should be no areas in Bristol where people feel afraid to walk through.’
Featured Image Credit: Epigam / Joe Maspo
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