Student journalist describes watching Bristol riot unfold

Rod Minchin, PA
·3-min read

A student journalist who livestreamed the Kill the Bill protest in Bristol on Facebook has described the shocking violence that marred a peaceful demonstration.

Ben Bloch, 24, reported for several hours for the Bristol Tab, showing rioters setting fire to a police car and throwing missiles at Avon and Somerset Police officers.

Mr Bloch, an international relations masters student at the University of Bristol, described Sunday night’s events as a mixture of party atmosphere and anger directed at the police.

“Last night was an experience. It was very tense most of the evening and in some places it was quite jovial,” he said.

“They had a lot of speaker systems, a lot of music playing, so they were having a party at certain points.

“But then you just feel it switch as people moved back in towards the police – a lot of anger and a lot of tension in the air throughout the evening.”

Mr Bloch said he saw violence directed towards police officers who were on duty outside the New Bridewell police station.

“It was very much tense because there was the police everywhere,” he said.

“There was a lot of people trying to confront the police, a lot of people shouting abuse at the police, bottles, rocks, anything they could find were being directed at police.

“But then as you move back, they had speaker systems, they were having a dance, lots of alcohol flowing, as you might imagine.

“It wasn’t bottles of water, it was bottles of beer being thrown.”

A protester smashing a window at Bridewell Police Station
A protester smashing a window at Bridewell Police Station (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Mr Bloch said there would have been many university students who would have been able to watch the riot unfold from the safety of their halls of residence located opposite the police station.

“From what I understand, students were quite shocked,” he said.

“I spoke to a student who was here last night, and it was a very young crowd.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if there were quite a few students that were here in the crowd.

“But the general reaction that we’ve seen online is one of shock, one of lots of debates as well about the validity of the protest compared to the Bill, whether it merited anything like that.

“A lot of debates are going on in that regard. But I think these students here in New Bridewell, if they enjoyed the show, they had the best seat in the house all evening.”

Mr Bloch said he had been living in Bristol for five years – and although the city has a reputation for protests, he had never witnessed anything like Sunday evening.

“I’ve been here since 2016 and I’ve never seen a protest kick off like this,” he said.

“I’ve attended multiple protests every year – it’s part of my job and part of being a student as well.

“I’ve never seen one that was violent, that was directed at the police.

“Usually it’s very good relations between police and the public here in Bristol but there was a lot of anger being directed towards the police.

“That was very different, that was new.”