Low Turnout Hampers Bank Holiday Kill The Bill March

Having survived police batons and dogs, wind and rain, and hostile media coverage, Bristol’s Kill The Bill movement may have finally met its match in a sunny bank holiday weekend. 

At least, this was the feeling at the most recent Kill The Bill demo on Saturday, May 19, where a tiny crowd of 25 people crawled through central Bristol.  

‘There’s other things to do now’, one protester suggested when asked about the low turnout. ‘Everyone’s just got a bit out of the loop and been going out and doing things again.’

An initial crowd of around 40 gathered on College Green from 16:00 on Saturday, joined by a samba band. However, due to the low turnout and a late start, the band left, prompting some protesters to do the same. 

The small group remaining held a short meeting to discuss what to do and decided to march anyway, cutting a route through Broadmead and Old City.

Back at College Green, protesters seemed happy with what they had achieved, with one attendee remarking that the low turnout and the samba band leaving was a shame, but those remaining had made something positive of it. 

However, was the bank holiday really to blame for the low turnout? Surely in part, but Bristol’s Kill The Bill movement has had issues brewing for some time. 

Kill The Bill protesters have commented previously on the difficulty of finding information about upcoming protests due to lack of advertising, or any central place to find information. 

Saturday’s demo was no better, with very little advertising on social media or posters and flyers around the city. One attendee explained how he had simply come to College Green on the off chance of a protest, but that he had no idea whether one was happening. 

The low turnout could also be a symptom of people’s weariness with A to B marches, which even those attending Saturday’s march accept as an issue.

One protester, who asked not to be named, commented ‘I’m sure there could be other things that could be done to make it more appealing. I guess, if you do marches every week, people give up eventually.’

Then there is the issue of organization. 

TBA has written previously on how Kill The Bill’s lack of structure is a blessing and a curse, with timekeeping, or the lack thereof, a particular source of annoyance for many. 

It was the absence of timetabling which, on Saturday, resulted in the samba band’s decision to leave before the march began, robbing the remaining protesters of one of their greatest assets. 

Lucy, who was attending her first Kill The Bill demo, approved of the visibility of organizations like XR at Kill The Bill protests in the past, and expressed a desire for more organizational input.

‘The main thing is unity between different organisations and groups….the more people the better, the more people put together their causes to join and to kill the bill the better.’

If the current attrition rate of Kill The Bill protests continues, they will disappear entirely within weeks. 

Sunny weather and the ending of lockdown are certainly factors in this, but they are not the only ones. Perhaps what is needed now is not another march, but a time for reflection and introspection. 

Read more on Bristol’s Kill The Bill movement here.

Read all of TBA’s Kill The Bill coverage here.

Samba band on College Green
Protesters gather on College Green prior to the samba band leaving.
Protester holds a placard reading "if our own live aren't strictly affected then it don't need to be corrected. How fucking cute is our ignorance."
Protesters move through the city centre. Image: James Ward
Crowd of around 20 people.
Protesters turn onto Prince Street.

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