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How Bristol ‘Kill the Bill’ protests erupted into violence

Home secretary condemns demonstration against increased policing powers as 20 officers injured

Police vans were set on fire and two police officers seriously injured in Bristol last night during scuffles with masked protesters who according to the city’s chief constable “came for a fight”.

One officer suffered broken bones and another has a punctured lung after what began as a peaceful protest turned violent when some of the demonstrators attacked the New Bridewell police station. 

Police chief Andy Marsh told Sky News that some officers had been “trapped inside the building” while others were “outside doing their very best to protect everyone present” at the demonstration against the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

The violence was not initiated by “people frustrated with the lack of ability to protest - this was people intent on causing serious disorder, violence and damage, people with a grudge against policing,” Marsh said.

“The people involved in assaulting the officers, burning out vehicles, damaging vehicles, smashing windows, hurling projectiles from the multi-storey car park, throwing things at our horses and dogs. They were people who came for a fight with the police.”

Thousands of people carrying placards with messages including “say no to UK police state” and “kill the bill” had gathered on Bristol’s College Green earlier on Sunday before marching through the city centre.

A smaller number of protesters later congregated outside the police station for began “initially with a sit-down protest” but escalated after “riot police, dogs and police horses were deployed in the street outside”, Bristol Live reports.

Videos and photos posted online showed a group chanting “Who’s streets? Our streets” before “violent scuffles” broke out, with demonstrators hurling objects and people “seen on the roof of part of the building”, the news site adds.

Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted her condemnation of the violence, warning that “thuggery and disorder by a minority will never be tolerated. Our police officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect us all.”

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds also spoke out against the “awful, shocking” attack, tweeting: “There is no excuse whatsoever for this violence. Thinking of those officers who have been injured, and their families, and wishing them a swift recovery.”

At least seven people have been arrested in connection with the protests. A police spokesperson said: “Enforcement action will be taken retrospectively when necessary and proportionate.”

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