Kill the Bill: Bristol protest turns violent

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Protesters watch a police van burn

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”- John F. Kennedy

There is an inevitable truth in the words of JFK, its not a justification of violence but it is a warning of more protest and a rejection of a system that has overstretched in its intrusions onto peoples liberties and lives.

This is not a Left or Right issue, this is an issue that affects all people of all persuasions. Thomas Paine once said: “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression.” in that light it’s understood ensuring our liberties are not taken from us or restricted in any way is ‘common cause’.

The British people are many things and have many layers of complexities but the one thing that binds us all is our freedoms, those hard fought battles from the Magna Carta of 1215 to the Human Rights Act 1998, were not given they were won.

Freedom of speech and the right to protest peacefully are protected by the law both the common law and the Human Rights Act 1998 cover these fundamental rights.

Common law stipulates our rights: personal security, personal liberty and private property, and auxiliary rights necessary to secure them, such as access to justice. Rights to a fair trial, right to open justice and to freedom of speech are recognised both in the common law and in the Convention of Human rights.

The British people will and must guard their freedoms fiercely, lest they be taken away.

What started as a non-violent demonstration in the city centre against the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill turned ugly after hundreds of protesters marched from College Green to the New Bridewell police station.

The event was dubbed ‘Kill the Bill’, in reference to the attempts to stop the Government’s proposed law which would give police and the Home Secretary increased powers to stop protests.

The Bill also makes a special new law to protect monuments and statues, in the wake of the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston, with the crime of damaging them punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Many protesters were wearing face masks and carried placards, including slogans such as “say no to UK police state” and “freedom to protest is fundamental to democracy” and “Kill the Bill”.

The protest was shared by many of Bristol’s leading campaign groups, including Extinction Rebellion and the city’s Black Lives Matter movement, but in the run-up to the event, Avon and Somerset police warned anyone thinking of taking part that they risked breaching coronavirus lockdown laws, that are still in force, and could be fined £200.

From videos, its quite clear the protest was conducted in a peaceful manner even though people quite rightly felt angry at the new legislation the Tory government are have introduced, however, at some point violence broke out and the scene turned ugly.

Zarah Sultana MP speaking at Parament square last week stated.

At the scene

Joanna Prior, reporting for BBC News

At the beginning of the night the mood was generally lively but not aggressive.

There was broken glass across the road and some people had climbed on top of traffic lights but there was no police intervention.

The dense crowd eventually splintered, with some moving away to carry on drinking and listen to music.

The atmosphere among those who remained became more volatile.

Riot police in full protective gear formed a barricade in front of the station, but the officers didn’t engage with the protesters at all.

They stood by as their shields and vans were daubed with graffiti – some of it profane and some of it hostile towards the police themselves and Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Then the atmosphere took a marked turn when the first police vehicle was set on fire. Huge plumes of black smoke rose up from Bridewell Street.

A small number of protesters jumped on to the roof of a second police van, thumping on the glass as the officers tried to reverse.

Objects were being thrown by protesters into the crowd and still the police did not move from their positions.

As well as the police vehicles set on fire, others were smashed up and their tyres let down as the crowd chanted “shame on you”.

Police said perpetrators would be “identified and brought to justice”.

It is not clear if any arrests have been made but a spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said there would be “significant consequences for behaviour such as this”.

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The fight against the #PoliceCrackdownBill isn’t over.

Let’s keep organising in our communities, in the streets, and in Parliament to #KillTheBill once and for all says Zarah Sultana MP.

I really should’ve put the flowers down before I started speaking. Noted for future reference! 😂

Originally tweeted by Zarah Sultana MP (@zarahsultana) on March 19, 2021.

There is no justification for wanton violence and destruction wherever it comes from but its safe to say after the restrictions of lockdown and the injustice of this Bill it will be a very hot summer.

This bill can only lead to more civil unrest, it does not just effect the Left but all citizens.

The civil liberties group Liberty described the vote on Tuesday evening as a “dark stain on our democracy”, adding: “Our right to protest is not and should never be viewed as a gift from the state.”

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