This article was published: at 11:20am, 22 March 2021. On 24 March, it was updated to reflect that the two police officers who were taken to hospital were found to not have suffered broken bones, as the police had previously stated in the aftermath of the riot.
A riot shook Bristol last night, 21 March. Earlier on Sunday, thousands of protestors had defied orders to stay at home by voicing their opposition against the authoritarian Police and Crime Bill. A mere few hundred metres from where the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled in June 2020, people gathered to protest the government’s attempts to curb the right to protest, including increasing prison sentences for damage to statues.
By late afternoon, several hundred predominantly younger people blocked the streets outside New Bridewell, Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s central Bristol police station. Chants rang out of “kill the bill”, in reference to the Police and Crime Bill, while others held signs about the killing of Sarah Everard. As the evening wore on, the confrontation between police and some of the protestors escalated dramatically, resulting in some of the most serious clashes seen in the UK outside Northern Ireland for years.
Riot police, dogs and horses were deployed and were met with resistance by some demonstrators. Bottles, rocks and fireworks were thrown, police vehicles torched, and the windows of Bristol’s main police station were caved in.
Cable journalists Alon Aviram and Adam Cantwell-Corn were on the scene and documented how the events unfolded in the timeline below.
As the clean up operation got underway so did the fall out, with the events being reported around the world. At the time of publishing, there have been seven reported arrests, and 20 officers with injuries, including two who were taken to hospital. There is no available information on injuries sustained by protestors, however Cable reporters witnessed multiple people in the crowd with head injuries and suffering from the effects of pepper spray.
Chief Constable Andy Marsh said in a statement: “Let’s be clear, the wanton violence and destruction had nothing to do with protest – it was committed by those looking for an excuse to commit disorder.
“A tactical decision was made to deal with these criminals retrospectively and not make a significant number of arrests last night.”
Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol, told the BBC this morning: “We’re outraged as a city, it’s not where we are, it’s not who we are. We will stand together to make that statement and reclaim our story from those who have tried to hijack it”, and in a statement said that the actions will hinder efforts to resist the Police and Crime Bill.
An on the ground view of how the events unfolded:
If you have any information about the protest, you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org