At least 5,000 people initially joined the afternoon protests in Bristol against the planned legislation, BristolLive said, with numerous placards carrying signs condemning a feared “police state” and “dictatorship”.
The so-called “Kill the Bill” protests then turned violent when “several thousand” people descended on a police station in the town in the south-west of England – triggering a violent riot that raged for hours, local media reported.
After rioters attempted to push a police van, police were caught on two fronts, the outlet said – with police vehicles also set on fire and the windows of the compound smashed. Some of the crowd even managed to climb onto the roof of the station and throw stones at the officers, BristolLive said.
Local police called for reinforcements from surrounding areas and used pepper spray and police dogs to repel rioters, the outlet said.
The violence left 20 injured. Two were hospitalized with broken bones, including one who also suffered a punctured lung, Avon and Somerset police said.
The protests were against the government’s Police, Crime, Sentences and Courts Bill – currently before parliament – which would give police new powers to impose time and noise limits on street protests. The name of the protest, ‘Kill the Bill’, also has disturbing undertones, with UK police commonly referred to as ‘the bill’.
With only seven people arrested overnight, the force made “one of the biggest calls for wanted suspects we’ve ever made,” Police Chief Andy Marsh said.
“The gratuitous violence and destruction had nothing to do with the protest – it was committed by those seeking an excuse to commit the disorder,” the senior policeman said in a statement, condemning the “shameful” scenes.
“The officers were bombarded with stones, missiles and fireworks and it was a terrifying situation for them,” he said. At least 12 police vehicles were destroyed after the protest was “hijacked by extremists,” he said.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel also tore up the “Unacceptable scenes. “
“The brutality and disorder of a minority will never be tolerated,” she tweeted.
Sue Mountstevens, police and crime commissioner for the Avon and Somerset region, called the riots “outrageous and outrageous”.
“The police went to work yesterday and some returned home via the hospital beaten and bruised,” she said.
Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees – who opposes the new legislation – a dit «Good Morning Britain» Monday that the rioters were only using it as an excuse to “crush our city” and had in fact damaged their cause.
“It will be used as evidence by people who want to support the bill,” he said.
With Post Wires