A rogues’ gallery of up to 500 people wanted in connection with the Kill the Bill riots in Bristol has been drawn up by police after their own force was besieged with scenes of violence.
Detectives are hunting what they believe to be is a ‘hardcore of serious criminals’ who infiltrated the 3,000 legitimate demonstrators protesting the bill.
Among the thousands who massed at the city’s College Green were members of anarchist groups as well as those hostile to law enforcement.
And with hours of CCTV, body-worn cameras and eyewitness videos posted online, investigators will be able to narrow down those who could help them with their enquiries.
They will include those seen proudly posing above a burning police car in the city centre and celebrating in front of smouldering emergency vehicles.
Pictures have also captured moments of clear criminal damage being carried out, such as street furniture or roadworks equipment being destroyed and people invading a police station.
Avon and Somerset Police’s Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: ‘This will undoubtedly lead to one of the biggest appeals for wanted suspects that we’ve ever done. There will be significant consequences for behaviour like this and we will leave no stone unturned’
Some of the protesters proudly posed above a burning police car in the city centre in the riot
Pictures apparently showed street furniture or roadworks equipment being destroyed
Investigators will be able to narrow down those who could help them with their enquiries
The protest was billed as being against the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will see the police handed new powers to tackle demonstrations.
But the rally turned sour as darkness began to fall as the pocket of criminals inside the demonstration began their work.
Currently just seven people have been arrested in connection with the violent scenes.
But the Avon and Somerset police and crime commissioner said “many more” would be arrested in the coming days as officers examined footage.
A police van was the subject of other activity as some of the activists climbed on board
Most of the protesters were masked, meaning police could have a tough time with identity
Currently just seven people have been arrested in connection with the violent scenes
Twenty police officers were injured, two seriously, when what started as a non-violent demonstration turned violent after hundreds of protesters descended on the New Bridewell police station.
Two of these injured were treated in hospital after suffering broken ribs and an arm. Both have since been discharged.
Mr Marsh said the demonstration had been “hijacked” by several hundred “extremists”.
“I believe the events of yesterday were hijacked by extremists, people who were determined to commit criminal damage, to generate very negative sentiment about policing and to assault our brave officers,” he said.
Some of the people at the protests were seen on top of structures risking public order offences
Other demonstrators could be seen celebrating in front of 999 vehicles being torched
Astonishing scenes came in from Bristol overnight after the demonstration turned violent
Riot police, with horses and vehicles, move down Rupert Street in Bristol towards protesters
What legislation is behind the protests to Kill the Bill?
The “Kill the Bill” protest in Bristol was organised against the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which could see the police handed more powers to tackle demonstrations.
The wide-ranging proposals, as part of efforts to overhaul the justice system, cut offending and make streets safer, also include laws to reform sentencing, the courts and handling offenders.
If passed, some of the measures will be UK-wide while others may only apply in England and Wales. They include:
– Whole life orders for premeditated murder of a child, allowing judges to also hand out the maximum sentence to 18 to 20-year-olds in exceptional cases, like for acts of terrorism leading to mass loss of life.
– Powers to halt the automatic early release of offenders who pose a danger to the public and end the automatic release halfway through a sentence of serious violent and sexual offenders.
– The legislation looks to toughen up powers the police have to tackle “non-violent” protests which are significantly disruptive to the public or on access to Parliament.
– The proposed law includes an offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance”.
According to the Bill, someone commits this crime if they cause “serious harm to the public”, which can include “serious annoyance, serious inconvenience or serious loss of amenity”. Those convicted could face a fine or jail.
Meanwhile, the Government is also seeking to increase the maximum penalty for criminal damage to a memorial from three months to 10 years, under the Bill.
The laws could also see police have more powers to crack down on unauthorised encampments which interfere with the ability to use the land.
Officers could also be allowed to stop and search people more if plans for serious violence reduction orders go ahead.
This would make it easier to carry out checks on those who have previously been convicted of carrying a knife.
“Officers were very patient. From the initial gathering of around 2,000 to 3,000, which was more than we anticipated, there were about 50 officers engaging with those present and encouraging them to disperse.
“Many were complying, in fairness.
“There was a hardcore of serious criminals hidden within those 3,000 people – perhaps 400 or 500 people – and we certainly didn’t trigger this.
“The officers were incredibly patient, incredibly professional and I pay tribute to them.”
Mr Marsh said 12 police vehicles were damaged, including two that were set on fire, and “significant damage” was caused to the New Bridewell police station.
“I’m incredibly saddened by the dreadful scenes we saw here,” he said.
“Officers were pelted with stones and missiles and fireworks and it was a terrifying situation for them to deal with.
“We have 20 officers injured, two of them seriously, and I spoke to one of them in hospital.
“Thankfully both officers have been released from hospital and are with their families.
“All of those assaulted were incredibly shocked, some of them were beaten around the head with sticks, hit with missiles.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel described the scenes as unacceptable and said “thuggery and disorder” would never be tolerated.
Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, who said he had “major concerns” about the Government’s Bill, condemned the thuggery but said the disorder would be used to justify the legislation.
Sue Mountstevens, police and crime commissioner for Avon and Somerset, said seven people had been arrested so far and there would be “many more” detained.
“It’s disgraceful and outrageous. Police officers went to work yesterday, and some have returned home via hospital battered and bruised,” she said.
“There will be warrants, there will be arrests and police will be checking on the CCTV. There will be further arrests in the next few hours and days.
“I believe there have been seven arrests so far and there will be many more.”
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would give the police 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.
Avon and Somerset Police Federation chairman Andy Roebuck condemned the violence as “disgusting scenes in Bristol by a mob of animals”.
John Apter, the 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.”
Darren Jones, the Labour MP for Bristol North West, said: “You don’t campaign for the right to peaceful protest by setting police vans on fire or graffitiing buildings.”