Chaos in Bristol's 'cultural quarter'

Closing down sale daubed on Tesco window "Closing down sale" is daubed on the window of Tesco in red paint

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Dubbed "Bristol's Cultural Quarter", the Stokes Croft area has a long-standing reputation for alternative living in Bristol.

The graffiti-daubed bohemian district sees Banksy artwork Mild Mild West in pride of place above the Canteen diner, while the Croft bar is a top live music venue in the city.

And when Tesco announced plans to open a store on Cheltenham Road, opponents came out in force.

Last March bailiffs evicted nine of the 10 squatters occupying the building where the Tesco Express store was planned.

Four people were arrested for public order offences and 70 police officers quelled the disturbance.

People living in the area opposing the store said they did not want the place to lose its local character and feared smaller shops would be threatened.

Protesters had set up camp outside the shop since its opening.

Good Friday saw the facade of the shop, which opened just a week ago, completely destroyed following running battles between protesters and police around the border between Stokes Croft and Montpelier.

"Closing down sale" is now daubed on the window in red paint.

Scuffles broke out on Thursday night when officers forced their way into a property being used by squatters on Cheltenham Road, virtually opposite the Tesco shop.

The graffiti-covered three-storey building is known locally as Telepathic Heights.

Nine people were arrested and eight police officers hurt after violent clashes.

Police on Cheltenham Road Scuffles broke out on Cheltenham Road and nearby streets on Thursday night

Curious locals, many who had seen the mayhem first hand, milled near the scene on Cheltenham Road on Friday morning.

By 1030 BST, much of the rubbish had been cleared up but an air of disbelief remained.

Nick Jones, who lives nearby, said: "At about half past nine last night there were lots of police on the street and riot vans. At about 10pm, it got more raucous.

"I think there were two waves. The first one anti-Tesco, then it calmed down and turned into a street party.

"It turned quite festive - people were playing Louis Armstrong. Then it turned into a riot, there was a barricade of bins and skips on fire.

"It turned into a running battle for about two hours.

"That second phase was nothing to do with locals, it was people causing a fight."

'Cheering and jeering'

Mr Jones said protesters had started attacking the Tesco and trying to turn a police vehicle over.

"People had weapons, saws and shields," he said.

Telepathic Heights The three-storey building is known locally as Telepathic Heights

"About 70 people charged on it [Tesco], cheering and jeering."

He said things finally calmed down at about 0430 BST.

Alex Slocombe, who lives in Montpelier, said he had gone to the scene on Cheltenham Road after seeing the police helicopter.

"Then we went to Picton Street [in Montpelier] and that's when it got quite heated.

"We were pushed down Picton Street by a line of police. The crowd surged and that pushed the police back down Picton Street.

"There were people chanting, it felt really good. We don't want Tesco here."

Jesse Webb, a barman at the Croft, said he felt the police had been heavy handed.

"They were in huge numbers straight away and attracted a crowd. Right from the get-go there was a large amount of people here.

"Last night was chaos, it was surreal."

Another man who lives nearby, who did not want to be named, said: "There are better ways of protesting than this.

"If everybody carried on like this, you'd have anarchy. The rule of law has to apply."

An Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said actions taken by the force were "fully justified".

A spokesman from Tesco said: "We strongly condemn the violence in Stokes Croft and the injuries caused to the members of the police who worked courageously to protect the public and businesses in this area, including ours.

"We will work hard to re-open as soon as possible to continue providing a service to Stokes Croft."

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