Bristol Kill the Bill: The protesters' perspective

By Jasmine Ketibuah-Foley
Broadcast Journalist

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image copyrightSimon Holliday
image captionThousands of people attended the demonstrations to support various causes

Public reaction to Kill The Bill protests has been mixed. Some people were shocked by the scenes of violence they saw and others felt disappointed their voices were not heard.

Protesters who attended the past three demonstrations have anonymously given their accounts of the events that unfolded on the streets of Bristol.

image copyrightSimon Holliday
image captionFirst aider Mark said there were "tonnes of casualties" among the protesters, with some in need of serious medical attention

'Generally law abiding citizens'

Mark was a volunteer first aider and had to treat and send a large number of protesters to hospital.

He said: "Are the police reacting to protester violence or are they reacting with violence to anyone, no matter how they are protesting?

"There are thousands of generally law abiding citizens of Bristol who are supporting this cause.

"I've been a youth worker here for four years. It's very disingenuous to par off the protesters as hooligans from outside Bristol.

"I think Marvin (Bristol's mayor) was unfair in his statement saying we didn't represent Bristol and are politically illiterate.

"We were there side by side with some of those violent protesters and didn't all condone their acts."

image copyrightSimon Holliday
image captionBristol student Tuff said "people didn't know when and how to finish the protest"

'It felt like revenge'

Tom attended the protest on 23 March along with others who occupied College Green in their tents. He arrived with the intention to oppose the trespass elements of the Police and Crime Bill that could affect traveller communities way of life.

He said police attacked them without provocation.

"We saw the helicopter and riot vans parking up and asked the police what was going on.

"We could see the camp was going to get attacked and as we got back there was a military sized presence lining up around the green.

"They just waded in and started beating people, clearing the square and attacked people with their shields.

"People were so diligently peaceful it was shocking to see the police reaction. It felt like retribution, like a revenge attack for Sunday's protest."

Following the third protest, Supt Mark Runacres, from Avon and Somerset Police, said "reasonable force had to be used".

"This is not something we ever want to do but we have a duty to uphold the law, prevent crime, and protect people and property.

"Officers must be able to justify use of force and any complaints made to the force will be investigated."

image copyrightBen Bloch
image captionStudent journalist Ben Bloch went to all three protests and said they were very different from one another

'No one knew where to go'

Student journalist and news editor for the Bristol Tab Ben Bloch said: "On the Sunday, there was a lack of police numbers compared to the crowd and they didn't seem prepared for it.

"The amount of anger that people had towards the police.

"People were very upset with some shouting general abuse at them and others were shouting about Sarah Everard, they felt the police couldn't protect them and others were just generally angry about lockdown.

"Police have become a focus for the protests and with no organisers no one knows where to go."

image copyrightAnya Agulova @ascendphotographicinsta
image captionMr Booth said all three protests were "unique" in nature

'Pushing the police line'

Editor of the Bristol 24/7 website Martin Booth attended all three protests and was mistakenly detained after one of them as he did not have his press identification card.

He said: "There was a carnivalesque-style atmosphere on Sunday afternoon, as the march snaked its way through the city centre, as was the march on Friday.

"It was a really positive atmosphere as was Tuesday when people had put tents up.

"But that all seemed to change when it got dark. That was the demarcation between the peaceful protest and when things got more agitated.

"From where I was standing, on the Sunday, it seemed when the first few people in the crowd started pushing at the police line, it started to take on a different atmosphere."

image copyrightSimon Holliday
image captionTom said police actions at the protest on the 23 March felt like a "revenge attack" for the initial protest on the Sunday

'Heavy handed police'

Bristol student Tuff, 23, blamed the protests turning violent on the lack of organisation.

She said: "It kept on ending in a stand-off between police and the protesters on who could stay there the longest.

"Sunday was just chaos from both sides.

"But on Tuesday, that was provoked by the police.

"We had a communicator from the protesters' side talking with the police.

"The last I saw of them they went to the police who told them they would be fine and that the protesters were allowed to stay there.

"When he came back to the crowd, riot vans arrived so either there was a big miscommunication or it was a lie.

"There were no bottles thrown, eggs thrown, no drunk people or people causing havoc, it was 100 percent the police that came in heavy handed and unannounced."

Some contributors' names have been changed to protect their identity.

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