Mirror Online: LONDON, England – Bristol was picking up the pieces this morning after chaotic scenes of violence and disorder rocked the city.
Twelve police vehicles were damaged as vehicles were set ablaze during the wanton destruction sparked from an initially peaceful protest.
Avon and Somerset Police confirmed this morning that seven people were arrested in total, six on suspicion of violent disorder and one on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon.
Chief Constable Andy Marsh told Sky News 20 police officers were injured, including one officer who suffered a collapsed lung after being stamped on, while another two officers suffered broken bones.
Thousands had been rallying against a new police bill that would give officers more powers to deal with non-violent protests.
But the event descended into chaos and police had to call in back-up from neighbouring forces as they tried to restore order.
New pictures emerged this morning showing the haunting devastation that had been wrought on parts of the city centre.
The burnt-out shell of a police van can be seen abandoned on a filthy city street, and windows from nearby businesses have been shattered.
Marvin Rees, Labour Mayor of Bristol said: “As a city, we roundly condemn this. This is not what we have been building over these years.”
Of the protesters behind the violence, he said: “There’s no strategy. It’s just their excuse to have a political tantrum.”
He said: “I don’t care what they call themselves, to be perfectly frank. What they’ve just done is stacked up a whole bunch of evidence, a whole bunch of stuff that those who promote the bill will use to justify pushing the bill forward.
“I’m a mixed race man. I come from a poor background. I am from communities that are disproportionately likely to be on the receiving end of the criminal justice system and receive unfair treatment.
“What they have done has done nothing to make me and people like me safer. My brothers and sisters or the people in the communities that I’ve been a part of.
“This was selfish, self-centred violence on their behalf.”
Chief Constable Marsh said: “20 of our brave officers suffered various injuries – including two who suffered more serious injuries which needed hospital treatment.
“I was at a Bristol station last night and can tell you the feeling of anguish was felt by all our officers and staff at seeing colleagues injured while on the frontline.
A police spokesman earlier said: “I can confirm seven arrests have been made overnight. We will now be carrying out a significant investigation to identify all those responsible.
“There were in region of 12 officers injured – with two taken to hospital with serious injuries.
We will be carrying out high profile patrols today.”
Graffiti has been strewn on blacked out walls and the roads and pavements can be seen littered with broken glass and waste.
A smaller police presence remained on the streets which now appear largely empty of people after hours of clashes.
On Twitter, the Avon and Somerset Constabulary mounted section said it had been a tough night for officers.
The force said: “After some very upsetting scenes in Bristol this evening all six horses and their riders are still on duty but safe.
“Thank you to everyone for your concern. It’s been a very long shift.”
“Thank you to everyone for your concern in what has been a very long testing shift for them.”
Several thousand people first gathered on College Green in the centre of Bristol from 2pm on Sunday afternoon, before marching through the city.
By the evening, the protestors gathered outside Bridewell police station before scenes turned ugly.
A police van was graffitied and set ablaze, and the front windows of the police station were smashed.
Images shared by Bedminster Fire Station appeared to show a second police vehicle later going up in flames.
At about 1am police shut the southbound carriageway of the M32 to stop traffic coming into the city centre. The road has since re-opened.
The protests had come as a response to the proposed Police, Crime, and Sentencing Bill, which will give police chiefs the ability to put more conditions on protests.
A police statement issued by Avon and Somerset Police on Sunday night condemned the “disgraceful” scenes.
The statement read: “Following a protest held earlier today, several hundred people congregated outside Bridewell Police Station during the afternoon.
“What started out as a peaceful protest was turned by a small minority into a 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 suffered a broken arm and another suffered broken ribs.
“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. Protestors are not inside the building.
“All those involved in this criminal behaviour will be identified and brought to justice. There will be significant consequences for behaviour such as this.”
There was further widespread condemnation of the violent scenes, among MPs and local politicians.
Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has faced criticism over her policing bill, 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.”
Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said: “Smashing buildings in our city centre, vandalising 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. This is a shameful day in an incredible year for Bristol.”
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.”
Chief Superintendent Will White has vowed that ‘all those involved in this criminal behaviour will be identified and brought to justice.’
Avon and Somerset have yet to release details of any arrests.
- Image: REUTERS –