Boris Johnson condemned the scenes of violence in Bristol as “shameful” after a protest against a new police bill on Friday evening resulted in clashes between protesters and police.
The protest was against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would give police greater powers to curb protests, and initially drew around 300 people before crowds surpassed 1,000 .
Police officers in Avon and Somerset said glass bottles, bricks and eggs were thrown at officers. Fireworks were also launched into his mounted division, according to the force, with a horse smeared in paint. Ten people were arrested, three of whom were also arrested during similar protests last Sunday.
“Our officers should not have to deal with bricks, bottles and fireworks thrown at them by an intentional mob of violence and causing property damage,” the prime minister tweeted.
Johnson added that “the police and the city have my full support.”
Interior Minister Priti Patel said she was “disgusted” by the scenes, describing the protesters as “thugs” who “only intended to cause trouble”.
“I have no doubt that the silent and law-abiding majority will be appalled by the actions of this criminal minority,” she said.
But police have also been criticized for their treatment of journalists reporting on the incident, including Bristol Cable reporters.
Daily Mirror reporter Matthew Dresch shared video footage that appeared to show police hitting him with a baton as he shouted he was coming from the press.
“The police assaulted me during the Bristol protest even though I told them I was from the press. I respectfully observed what was going on and I posed no threat to any of the officers, ”he said.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would give the police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on peaceful protests, including those they deem too noisy or harmful to the community. Those found guilty under the laws would face fines or even jail time.
Critics argue that it violates the right to free and peaceful expression.
Superintendent Mark Runacres said the force expected more protests in the coming days, saying more protests were “of concern to us.”
“As of Monday, changes in the legislation will hopefully allow us to collaborate effectively with the protest organizers, which we have always done before before the changes in the legislation regarding the Covid regulations stop this” , did he declare.
Before the arrests, demonstrators could be seen dancing despite heavy rains and distributing flowers.
Rows of police officers and vans blocked Bridewell Police Station from protesters, after it was destroyed by protesters last Sunday. About 3,000 people witnessed what started as a peaceful march but turned into a riot, with around 500 people marching on the station.
Police came under fire this week when they retracted, saying two officers suffered broken bones in the riot.
Twelve people were arrested in connection with Sunday’s incident, and 15 others for a later protest on Tuesday.