A protest in the west England city of Bristol against new policing legislation descended into violent clashes that left at least 20 officers injured, two of them seriously, police said.
The protest, which started Sunday afternoon and ran through to the early hours of Monday morning, was condemned by Britain’s interior minister, Priti Patel. She branded the scenes, which also saw several police vehicles damaged, as “unacceptable” and said “thuggery and disorder” would never be tolerated.
What started as a peaceful demonstration turned violent after hundreds of protesters descended on the New Bridewell police station. Many who attended the protest on College Green in the heart of the city were wearing face masks and carried placards, saying: “Say no to UK police state” and “Freedom to protest is fundamental to democracy.”
The protesters were ostensibly venting their anger at the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently going through parliament. Under the terms of the bill, which covers England and Wales, police will be able to put more controls on protests.
Sue Mountstevens, police and crime commissioner for the Avon and Somerset region, said seven people have been arrested but that there would be “many more” detained.
“It’s disgraceful and outrageous,” she said. “Police officers went to work yesterday and some have returned home via hospital battered and bruised.”
Protesters attempted to smash the windows of the glass-fronted police station and tried to set fire to one of the marked police vans parked outside, but the small flames were quickly extinguished by riot officers.
Andy Marsh, chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, said 12 police vehicles were damaged and “significant damage” was caused to the New Bridewell police station.
“Officers were pelted with stones and missiles and fireworks and it was a terrifying situation for them to deal with,” he said. “We have 20 officers injured, two of them seriously, and I spoke to one of them in hospital.”