Hundreds of people have taken part in a peaceful “kill the bill” protest in Bristol with the police claiming they had pressed a “reset button” after violent clashes during three previous demonstrations.
Alrededor 300 people met on College Green in Bristol, marched through the city centre and took part in a sit-down protest in front of Bridewell police station, which lasted into the early hours of Wednesday.
The police station has been the focus of confrontations between police and protesters this month and the Avon and Somerset force has been accused of heavy-handed tactics.
On Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, más que 100 riot police were on standby in the city but remained largely out of sight and the protest was allowed to go ahead.
The protesters, mainly young people, took part in a low-key demonstration on College Green in front of the cathedral on Tuesday evening. Speeches were made criticising the government’s police, crimen, sentencing and courts bill and the local force’s tactics in breaking up previous demonstrations.
They then marched through the city centre playing music and chanting anti-bill and anti-police slogans before sitting down in front of the police station.
The protesters inadvertently held up a convoy of film crew lorries in Bristol for a Stephen Merchant series called The Offenders, which follows seven strangers from different walks of life forced together to complete a community payback sentence in Bristol. But the mood remained upbeat and relaxed.
Gema, 21, who works in retail, dicho: “This is the fourth protest I’ve been to. It’s really peaceful and I think that’s because there’s not a small army of riot police anywhere near us. This one feels a lot nicer, there are speeches and everyone can listen and educate themselves. It’s a lot more constructive like this.
“My family are Travellers and this bill is going to affect them – if it goes through they could lose their homes. There’s a large Traveller community in Bristol, which is why so many people are protesting.”
Rosemary Fox, 58, addressed the crowd in front the police station and described the bill as “insidious”. “We are going to stand up and be counted," ella dijo.
After her speech, Fox said her family questioned her wisdom in attending the protests. “They think I should just go to my ladies’ reading group and the WI [Women’s Institute] but I’m going to keep coming. I want to make a better world for my children.”
Jaime, 27, a musician, dicho: “The right to protest is just a fundamental pillar of democracy, we’re branded as lefties for being here, but we have a right to protest. I’m not here for any violence, I believe in nonviolent protest.”
Supt Mark Edgington, of Avon and Somerset police, said on Wednesday: “We were committed to facilitating a peaceful protest in line with the Covid-19 legislation.”
Ahead of the demonstration, Avon and Somerset police said changes to the coronavirus regulations meant it was possible for peaceful protests to go ahead.
Edgington said: “Now that restrictions around protest have changed, we wanted to press a reset button, and I believe we achieved this last night. We have a long and proud history of facilitating peaceful protests spanning many years and today was a prime example of this.”
Another protest is planned in Bristol on Saturday. Edgington added: “We continue to urge people to engage with us as early as possible and have a conversation around how we can assist in ensuring lawful protests.”