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Kill the Bill: Hundreds gather at Bristol's ‘last legal protest’

Hundreds of protesters yesterday demonstrated in Bristol for the ‘last legal protest’ against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

By Jess Millson, Co-Deputy News Editor

Hundreds of protesters yesterday demonstrated in Bristol for the ‘last legal protest’ against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

The protest in Bristol was one of many across the country which took place as part of a national day of action against the prospective legislation.

Protesters began gathering on College Green at 1pm, and by 2pm a crowd of hundreds had gathered and the organised speeches began. There were poems from representatives of the GRT community as well as campaigns from organisations and charities.

One of the speakers was Rhian Graham, one of defendants dubbed as the Colston Four, who was recently found not guilty for the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston in June 2020.

Miss Graham argued that from recent events over the past year, it is “abundantly clear that the police do not need any more power.”

Miss Graham was also hopeful, however, that the “victories” such as the Colston Four “speak for the changing mood of the general public and I have no doubt that even if this Bill passes with its draconian clauses we will continue to march, continue to disrupt, and continue winning cases that prove that our human rights are not negotiable.”

The march began at 3.45pm, blocking lower Park Street.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was proposed in March 2021 and was heavily protested against due to it empowering police to act against groups where ‘significant disruption’ is ‘likely to be caused’ including GRT (Gypsy, Roma, Traveler) groups and homeless people. Part three of the Bill would also give police more power to forcibly shut down protests and public assembly. The protest on 15 January aimed to cause ‘significant disruption’ in order to protest in defence of the right to protest.

The crowd gathers on College Green

After the speeches, protesters marched with the bands towards Bridewell Police Station, stopping traffic on the way. Chants such as ‘Whose Streets, Our Streets’ and ‘This is what democracy looks like’ could be heard from the marching crowd.

An angry motorist caught in the crowd on St Augustine’s Parade got out of their car after clashing with protesters. They asked police to move protesters away from the road repeating “I just want to go home!” Eventually, the car was able to pass and a protester told the driver “If you were a little bit nicer you would have gone a long time ago.”

The March returned to College Green at around 5pm and the crowd shared stories and songs as part of the regular Peace Vigil that occurs on Bristol’s Green.

Protesters stop traffic on St Augustine's Parade

Featured Image: Epigram / Jess Millson

Did you go to the protest on 15 January? Let us know!