Administrators have criticized violent instance at a protest in Bristol, England that set vehicles ablaze and police officers injured as tensions accelerate between law enforcement and activists over a controversial crime bill that could curtail people’s liberty to demonstrate.
The “Kill the Bill” protest was condemned by the government and local lawmakers after protesters conflicted with police, attacking a police station, leaving some officers with broken bones on Sunday evening.
“Thuggery and disorder by a minority will never be tolerated,” the UK’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, tweeted, saying that the scenes are “unacceptable.”
The protest began with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s flagship policing bill, which critics mention would hand the police and ministers powers that could cut citizens’ ability to protest peacefully.
But tensions mounted as the protest wore on Sunday, resulting in violent scenes criticized by officers and lawmakers across the political spectrum.
“Officers have been subjected to considerable levels of abuse and violence. One suffered a broken arm, and another suffered broken ribs. Both have been taken to hospital,” Avon and Somerset Police shared Sunday night. “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.”
Andy Roebuck, chairman of the Avon and Somerset Police Federation, remarked the protesters as “a mob of animals”. The national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, John Apter, questioned their intent. “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,” he remarked.
The local Member of Parliament Darren Jones, from the opposition Labour party, said: “You don’t campaign for the right to peaceful protest by setting police vans on fire or graffitiing buildings.”
With the violent break-up of a vigil to a murdered woman last weekend along with the arrest of a serving police officer on the notion of her murder, the anticipated policing bill has put relations between British police and a lot of the public under severe strain.
Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens was accused of the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard earlier this month, in a case that has been strongly followed and led to a famous national discussion about intimidation, harassment and violence against women.
But the police became subjects of anger, too, when they moved in on a peaceful vigil to Everard in south London on March 13 and seem to force women to the ground, a method that has led to a review and cast inspection on pending legislation that would increase their powers to dismantle protests and mass gatherings in the future.
Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, shared he had “major concerns about the Bill myself, which is poorly thought out and could impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to peaceful protest.”
However, he criticized the violent protestors in his city for making it more likely that the bill would pass. “Smashing buildings in our city center, vandalizing vehicles, attacking our police, will do nothing to lessen the likelihood of the Bill going through. On the contrary, the lawlessness on show will be used as evidence and promote the need for the Bill.”
The bill was argued in Parliament last week. In not so clear language, it proposes that demonstrations and protests should not “intentionally” or “recklessly” cause “public nuisance”. Further, it mentions that damage to monuments could carry a punishment of up to 10 years in prison — a clause considered a retort to Black Lives Matter protesters, who tore down or condemned statues of slave traders in Bristol the previous year.