A campaign group started by parents of those imprisoned for Kill The Bill protests in 2021 are calling for a public inquiry into the actions of Avon & Somerset Constabulary in the policing of those protests.
Justice for Bristol Protesters have launched a petition to the Home Office asking for the inquiry, motivated by what they say was “excessive violence” meted out by the police against protesters at the demonstration outside Bridewell police station on March 21, 2021.
Avon & Somerset Constabulary were documented using pepper spray, batons, and attack dogs against protesters during the protest, as well as using the controversial tactic of “blading” whereby the edge of a riot shield is used to strike a protester.
Over 60 protesters sustained injuries and required hospital treatment that night, whilst dozens more injuries at successive protests on March 23 and 26, for which Avon & Somerset were accused of “revenge policing”.
Heidi Gedge, the mother of Mariella Gedge-Rogers who was jailed in 2022 for five and a half years for her part in the protests, said: ‘The protestors, who were standing up for everyone’s right to freedom of speech, and were brutally attacked by police. Then many were subjected to harsh prison sentences when they tried to defend themselves.
‘This included my daughter, who in an unprovoked attack, was pinned to the ground by three police officers, her hand was stamped on and she feared for her life. She is currently serving five and a half years in prison for riot yet not a single officer has been exposed, questioned or called to account for their outrageous behaviour.’
Questions have long circle about the behaviour of Avon & Somerset during Kill The Bill protests of March 2021. So too has the uncritical support given to the police by prominent Bristol figures. This is despite repeated testimonies from protesters about the violence they witnessed and suffered.
In a report from July 2021 a cross-party group of MPs assessed Avon & Somerset’s policing and returned a damning conclusion. Amongst other criticisms, the group concluded: ‘In our view there are instances in which the use of blading during the Bristol events was unjustified, entirely excessive, and may amount to criminal offences against the person.’
In response to a Freedom of Information request this year, Avon & Somerset Police revealed that they received four complaints about the use of blading at Kill the Bill protests, of which none were upheld.