Disgraceful scenes marred a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest in Bristol and saw a police station attacked, officers injured and a van set alight by violent thugs.
What started as a non-violent demonstration in the city centre against the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill turned violent after hundreds of protesters marched from College Green to the New Bridewell police station.
Police Federation representatives said Avon and Somerset officers had suffered broken arms and ribs after being attacked by rioters.
Thugs smashed the windows of the police station and also targeted Avon and Somerset Police vans parked nearby.
Some had their windows smashed, were sprayed were graffiti and repeatedly rocked from side.
Uniformed officers with riot shields put used a fire extinguisher to put one small blaze that was started underneath one vehicle.
A short time later rioters destroyed a mobile police station van that had been parked on a nearby side street by setting it alight.
Later, protesters attempted to smash the windows of the glass-fronted police station.
They also tried to set fire to one of the marked police vans parked outside the station but the small flames were quickly extinguished by riot officers.
Other protesters set fire to a police van parked on Bridewell Street, near to the police station.
Avon and Somerset Police said missiles had been thrown at them, including fireworks, and they had also been verbally abused.
Pictures showed mounted officers intervening to disperse the large crowd that had gathered outside the police station.
The mindless violence was condemned by the Home Secretary, police federation representatives and MPs.
Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted: “Unacceptable scenes in Bristol tonight.
“Thuggery and disorder by a minority will never be tolerated. Our police officers put themselves in harms way to protect us all.
“My thoughts this evening are with those police officers injured.”
Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “Awful, shocking scenes in Bristol. 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.”
Andy Roebuck, chairman of the Avon and Somerset Police Federation, said: “Disgusting scenes in Bristol by a mob of animals who are injuring police officers, members of the public and damaging property.
“Avon and Somerset Police Federation are attending stations to support officers.
“We have officers with suspected broken arms and ribs.
“This is so wrong.”
John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “Horrendous scenes in Bristol.
“Number of officers badly injured, police vehicles damaged and a police station under attack.
“This is not protest, it’s just mindless violence.
“Thoughts are with my colleagues.”
Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West, said: “The scenes in Bristol this evening are completely unacceptable.
“You don’t campaign for the right to peaceful protest by setting police vans on fire or graffitiing buildings.
“Avon and Somerset Police were on duty today to facilitate a peaceful protest not to deal with criminal behaviour.”
Chief Superintendent Will White, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: “What started out as a peaceful protest has been turned by a small minority into violent disorder.
“These scenes are absolutely disgraceful and they will be widely condemned by people across the city.
“There can never be any excuse for wanton disorder.
“Officers have been subjected to considerable levels of abuse and violence.
“One officer suffered a broken arm and another suffered broken ribs.
“Both have been taken to hospital.
“These are men and women out there with the intention of serving and protecting the public – they should never be subjected to assaults or abuse in this way.
“At least two police vehicles have been set on fire and damage has been caused to the outside of the station.
“Protesters are not inside the building.
“We have requested mutual aid from neighbouring forces to bring this incident to a safe conclusion.
“All those involved in his criminal behaviour will be identified and brought to justice.
“There will be significant consequences for behaviour such as this.”
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.
Mass gatherings are currently banned under the coronavirus legislation and anyone breaching the regulations could be fined.
Many who attended the protest on College Green were wearing face masks and carried placards, saying: “Say no to UK police state” and “Freedom to protest is fundamental to democracy” and “Kill the Bill”.
Avon and Somerset Police had urged people not to attend the demonstration, warning that enforcement action could be taken.