Kill the Bill demo: Bristol protesters clash with police during seventh rally

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Kill the Bill demonstrators clashed with police in Bristol yesterday after marching through the city after thousands railed against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in London last Saturday.

Protesters defied the coronavirus lockdown as they gathered at College Green at 6pm before marching through the south-western city, which has recently experienced its worst rioting in years.

One male was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance during the seventh Kill the Bill demo to have take place, a spokesperson for Avon and Somerset Police told Bristol Live.  

Yesterday’s protest took place ahead of a second National Day of Action against the Government’s proposed policing law, which would give officers sweeping powers to crack down on non-violent protests.

This week four women and two men were charged after a protest in Parliament Square, London last Saturday turned violent, during which 10 Metropolitan Police officers were injured. 

Kill the Bill demonstrators clashed with police in Bristol yesterday after marching through the city after thousands railed against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in London last Saturday

Protesters defied coronavirus restrictions as they gathered at College Green at around 6pm before marching through the south-western city, which recently experienced its worst rioting in years

Protesters defied coronavirus restrictions as they gathered at College Green at around 6pm before marching through the south-western city, which recently experienced its worst rioting in years

A female protester is seen marching through Bristol at a Kill the Bill demo against the Government's proposed policing bill

A female protester is seen marching through Bristol at a Kill the Bill demo against the Government’s proposed policing bill

Avon and Somerset Police in Bristol with dogs as protesters marched through the south-western city yesterday

Avon and Somerset Police in Bristol with dogs as protesters marched through the south-western city yesterday 

Four of those charged – three women and a man aged between 23 and 39 – have been accused of assaulting an emergency worker. The other two defendants have been charged with obstructing a constable and all six are due to appear at Westminster magistrates’ court later this month.

There appeared to be over 10,000 people at the rally, which was held in a crowded Parliament Square. For comparison, nearby Trafalgar Square is able to hold 20,000 people when full. 

A small group of around 50-100 protesters in London began to block roads around Parliament Square and chanted anti-police slogans including ‘All Cops Are B******s’. 

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed the massive crowd, standing next to a statue of Mahatma Gandhi as he called the bill a ‘very dangerous, slippery slope’ and defended the right to protest.

A separate group in Parliament Square was seen demonstrating with anti-sexism slogans, including ‘educate your sons’ and ‘misogyny is the virus’, chanting ‘women scared everywhere, police and Government do not care’. 

Three Kill the Bill protestors unfurled a banner which read ‘Kill Cops’ and held aloft the incendiary message outside the Houses of Parliament – just 50 metres away from where PC Keith Palmer was stabbed to death in 2017.

Protesters defied lockdown as they gathered at College Green at around 6pm before marching through Bristol

Protesters defied lockdown as they gathered at College Green at around 6pm before marching through Bristol

Protesters clashed with police in Bristol yesterday. One was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance

Protesters clashed with police in Bristol yesterday. One was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance

The national weekend of action spread beyond the capital to cities including Newcastle, Liverpool, Brighton, Bristol and Manchester – where police said a number of ‘peaceful’ protests took police.

It comes as the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police announced he will quit this summer amid backlash over the force’s handling of Black Lives Matter protests and Kill the Bill riots.

Andy Marsh, who has spent 34 years on the force, will not seek to extend his contract when it expires at the beginning of July, saying it was a ‘difficult decision to make’.

The force has come under fire for being too heavy-handed in its response to Kill the Bill rioters. Senior officers were also criticised for failing to intervene to stop Black Lives Matter protesters dumping a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol Harbour last summer. 

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Mr Marsh said it had been the ‘honour of a lifetime’ to lead the force he first joined in 1987 and that it would be a ‘wrench’ to leave the job.  

He said: ‘To leave a force I first joined in 1987 has been a difficult decision to make, but I feel it is the right time for me to embark on a new challenge and for another person to take the helm and continue on the journey to make Avon and Somerset Police the outstanding force it deserves to be.’

Mr Marsh, a rowing silver medal winner in the Barcelona 2003 World Police who is married with two daughters, joined Avon and Somerset Police as a new recruit in 1987, working his way up to the rank of chief superintendent. 

Andy Marsh (pictured on March 22, following a Kill the Bill protest) will not seek to extend his contract when it expires at the beginning of July, saying it was a 'difficult decision to make'

Andy Marsh (pictured on March 22, following a Kill the Bill protest) will not seek to extend his contract when it expires at the beginning of July, saying it was a ‘difficult decision to make’

Unrest following rallies against the government's proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in Bristol over recent weeks led to claims that policing had been too aggressive. Pictured: A demonstrator skateboards in front of a burning police vehicle on March 21

Unrest following rallies against the government’s proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in Bristol over recent weeks led to claims that policing had been too aggressive. Pictured: A demonstrator skateboards in front of a burning police vehicle on March 21 

He took the job of Chief Constable at Avon and Somerset in February 2016, after serving as Assistant Chief Constable at Wiltshire Police and Chief Constable at Hampshire Constabulary, which under his lead became the first police force in England to be personally equipped with body-worn video.

Mr Marsh was appointed as the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) policing lead for body-worn video in 2014 and was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal, presented for gallantry or distinguished service, in 2018. 

The force’s police and crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens called Mr Marsh ‘an outstanding chief’ and said he had led his team ‘with courage through some particularly challenging times for policing’. 

A riot broke out on March 21 when 500 people marched on Bridewell police station, set fire to police vehicles and attacked the station, and protests on March 23 and 26 also ended with clashes between activists and officers.

Following the demonstrations, Bristol West Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire said she was speaking to people who claimed officers were too forceful. She said: ‘This is absolutely unacceptable.

‘The scenes of violence and direct attack on the police in Bristol city centre will distress most people including anyone who believes in defending the right to peaceful democratic protest.’

Force bosses were also criticised for failing to intervene to stop Black Lives Matter protesters throwing a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol Harbour (above) last summer

Force bosses were also criticised for failing to intervene to stop Black Lives Matter protesters throwing a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol Harbour (above) last summer

Police with shields and helmets hold back people outside Bridewell Police Station in Bristol on Sunday, March 21

Police with shields and helmets hold back people outside Bridewell Police Station in Bristol on Sunday, March 21

Mr Marsh defended breaking up crowds during the ‘Kill the Bill’ protests, saying it was ‘what our communities expected us to do’ under lockdown regulations.

John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: ‘This is not about protecting the right to protest, it’s violent criminality from a hardcore minority who will hijack any situation for their own aims.

‘My colleagues, some of whom are now in hospital, face the brunt of that hatred. 

‘Thoughts remain with my colleagues.’ A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police further stated: ‘Officers have had projectiles thrown at them, including a firework, and have been verbally abused. 

‘This is unacceptable behaviour and those responsible for offences will be identified and brought to justice.’ 

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would give officers in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance.

Those convicted under the proposed legislation could face a fine or jail. The Bristol protesters were carrying signs reading ‘say no to UK police state’ and ‘freedom to protest is fundamental’.

Police had advised people not to attend the protest due to coronavirus legislation, which bans mass gatherings.

Mr Marsh also spoke out on the force’s tactics when officers failed to intervene to stop the Colston statue being damaged. He said that trying to arrest the activists would have resulted in ‘a very violent confrontation’.

The approach was later backed by police watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.      

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