By Epigram Reporters
The demonstration against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill began earlier in the day on College Green, but moved to the city centre where large numbers of riot police dispersed, sometimes violently, what had been a largely peaceful crowd.
From 6pm, a crowd of around 500 protestors remained on Bridewell Street last night, holding banners and flowers in support of their right to protest. They faced an extensive police line that was blocking them off from reaching New Bridewell Police Station, where Sunday night’s violence ended up.
There were multiple lines of officers in riot gear, rows of police vans and mounted police. A police helicopter was flying overhead for much of the night as well. Liaison officers, whose role is to engage with the public at demonstrations, had been present earlier in the day but could not be seen at this stage.
For much of the evening, protestors staged a sit-in, chanting, playing music and laying flowers at the officers feet and in their shields. A number were more confrontational and verbally abusive towards police officers but they were in the minority and faced disapproval from the rest of the crowd who called on them to sit down.
Events escalated from 10pm when police began to push protestors back with charges of riot shields. In response, some projectiles were thrown by the crowd, including eggs and glass bottles but the majority of the crowd remained peaceful.
As some of the crowd began to disperse, officers became more aggressive towards those who remained. A small group went towards Broadmead after being moved off Bridewell street by horse charges.
The crowd, numbering around 25, faced a similar number of riot officers who blocked them off from two directions.
Another group of protestors were pushed back towards the Bearpit where they faced a larger police presence. Over 100 officers in riot shields, 20 police vans, and around ten horses and ten dogs were on the site.
This line of police then continued to push demonstrators back along Bond Street, with regular traffic still continuing as normal. Fireworks were also launched at police at this stage.
The protest ended at around 1am with the final remaining protestors being dispersed into residential streets in the St Paul’s area by police dogs.
Throughout the night, officers showed heavy policing tactics towards members of the press. A number of reporters, including from Epigram, were charged at by riot shields, whilst the Daily Mirror’s Matthew Dresch was assaulted by riot police despite identifying himself as press.
Avon & Somerset Police have said: ‘We’re aware of a video showing a journalist being confronted by officers.
‘A free press is a cornerstone of our democracy and we fully respect the media’s vital role in reporting events fairly and accurately.’
Police assaulted me at the Bristol protest even though I told them I was from the press. I was respectfully observing what was happening and posed no threat to any of the officers. I have muted the latter part of the video to spare you all the pain of hearing my shrill voice. pic.twitter.com/a7a0Nnw0bG— Matthew Dresch (@MatthewDresch) March 27, 2021
However, this follows the police’s treatment of journalists on Tuesday night, when two reporters from The Bristol Cable were manhandled and threatened with force, Martin Booth, editor of Bristol 24/7 was briefly detained, and a number of reporters were charged at by horses.
Avon & Somerset police said they have reached out and apologised to the Cable reporters.
A number of protestors were injured by police throughout last night. Epigram reporters saw protestors pushed to the ground as riot police advanced and others with bloodied faces.
Whilst riot shields are intended to push crowds, they could be seen being used to hit protestors. There have also been reports of protestors being pepper-sprayed and bitten by police dogs.
Footage shared on social media also appears to show a protestor on the ground being dragged away by numerous officers and being hit with a baton. Avon & Somerset police have not reported any officer injuries.
Ten arrests were made over the course of the night, with three of those detained also being charged with offences from Sunday’s unrest.
As on Sunday and Tuesday, it appears that Avon & Somerset Police called in support from other police forces. Epigram reporters asked numerous officers which forces had sent officers to the scene and which force they themselves were from but did not receive any answers. However, officers with British Transport Police equipment and Welsh police vans were seen on the site.
Ten people were arrested in #Bristol following violent disorder in the city overnight.— Avon and Somerset Police (@ASPolice) March 27, 2021
Glass bottles and bricks were thrown at officers while fireworks were launched at our mounted section. One of our horses was also covered with paint.
More here - https://t.co/fStos1qbXW pic.twitter.com/CSlQGv83XT
Superintendent Mark Runacres said: ‘The majority of people acted peacefully however there was a minority who once again showed hostility to officers.
‘Items, including glass bottles and bricks were thrown at officers, fireworks were launched at our mounted section while one of our horses was also covered with paint.
‘This violent conduct is not acceptable … At times reasonable force had to be used – this is not something we ever want to do but we have a duty to uphold the law, prevent crime, and protect people and property.’
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has called last night’s events ‘disgraceful attacks against police officers’ and said that the police have his ’full support’.
Home Secretary Priti Patel described the protestors as ‘thugs,’ and Shadow Chancellor Annelise Dodds said that protestors should have used ‘other ways of expressing whatever dissatisfaction they have.’
Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol, has defended the police's actions, saying in a statement, 'Avon and Somerset Police in Bristol have shown they are capable of managing protests well and with sensitivity and have developed a strong culture of working with our communities.'
Featured: Epigram / Rufus Atkins
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