Violence was brought to the streets of Bristol again on Tuesday 23rd March as police used force to dismantle a peaceful encampment on College Green.
The camp, which was part of the wider Kill the Bill protests against the Police, Crimes, Sentencing and Courts Bill, had been intended to raise awareness about how the rights of Travellers would be curtailed by the Bill.
Protestors at the camp through the day reported calm scenes with music, speakers and performers, with families present.
At 22:00, around 200 riot police arrived around College Green to disperse the camp, citing breaches of COVID regulations. Police rapidly entered the camp and began clearing people and tents from the Green.
According to a statement from A&S Police, ‘Throughout the operation officers continued to urge protestors to move on – at no time were they contained – but there came a time when enforcement was necessary as gatherings are still not permitted.’
Commenting on this enforcement, one protestor reported ‘we were just sitting on the ground and the police came in with batons.
‘[The police] were breaking tents, my friend was pulled by her hair and I saw people pushed to the ground.’
Some protestors from the camp were able to regroup on Deanery Road, where they were pursued by police and police attack dogs.
The pursuit reached a stalemate when the police stopped before the junction of Deanery Road and St George’s Road, where protestors regrouped and sat in the road. By this point, there were around 35 police officers, 6 mounted police officers, and around 60 protestors.
The feeling amongst some protestors was that tonight was intended as a show of force by the police, in response to Sunday’s rioting around Bridewell station.
‘The police were vindictive’, one protestor said, ‘they wanted to make a point. They targeted us because they know that Bristol has a lot of young people, a lot of leftist people. They wanted to make a point.
‘I wasn’t even there [at the riot] on Sunday. I’m not a radical at all. I just want to stand up for the right to protest.’
Several more reports of police violence came in during this time. People who had been pushed to the floor, dragged, and one person who had been struck in the head by a riot shield.
Video evidence appears to substantiate these claims.
The stalemate at the junction continued until around 01:45 when the police began to advance their line, at one point bringing them into confrontation with protestors who were lying in the road resulting in more violence from the police.
Protestors were pushed to the Anchor Road roundabout, where a final order to disperse was given by the police and the remaining protestors left the scene, pursued by mounted police.