UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned protests in the city of Bristol that saw demonstrators clash with police over a controversial policing bill for a second weekend in a row. Critics say the bill would curtail the right to demonstrate in the UK.
In a tweet Saturday, Johnson said the protests saw “disgraceful attacks against police officers in Bristol.”
“Our officers should not have to face having bricks, bottles and fireworks being thrown at them by a mob intent on violence and causing damage to property,” he said.
People took to the streets on Friday evening — the third protest in a week — to voice their opposition to the bill, with more protests expected across the UK over the weekend.
Crowds walked through Bristol city center — past the site of the site of the now-toppled statue of slave trader Edward Colston — and ended up outside Bridewell police station, which had stones hurled at it by demonstrators last weekend.
More than 1,000 people were in attendance, according to Avon and Somerset police, and protesters could be heard shouting “peaceful protest” and “shame on you” at officers.
Videos circulating online show appear to show demonstrators being shoved to the floor and hit with riot shields.
A journalist for the Daily Mirror tweeted a video of officers apparently forcefully moving him out of the way and seemingly hitting him with batons as he can be heard shouting, “I’m press!”
Avon and Somerset police said they were aware of the video and were trying to contact the journalist involved.
The police said items such as eggs and glasses were thrown at them, fireworks were launched at their mounted section and attempts were made to pull at their shields. A total of 10 people were arrested, with dogs and horses being used by officers until 1 a.m. local time.
Superintendent Mark Runacres said “the majority of people acted peacefully however there was a minority who once again showed hostility to officers.”
Tensions were especially high as the same police force admitted on Friday that last weekend’s reports — claiming that officers suffered injuries including broken bones and a punctured lung at the hands of protesters — were untrue.
“Thankfully the injuries — while still serious — did not involve fractures or a punctured lung. We believed the information had been verified but it had not, and while we apologise for that there was no intention to mislead,” Avon and Somerset Police said in a updated statement.
The proposed policing bill, along with the violent break-up of a vigil to a murdered woman earlier this month and the arrest of a serving police officer on suspicion of her murder, has put relations between British police and much of the public under severe strain.
Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens was charged with the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, in a case that has been intensely followed and led to a renewed national discussion about intimidation, harassment and violence against women.
But the police became subjects of ire, too, when they moved in on a peaceful vigil to Everard in south London on March 13 and appeared to force women to the ground, an approach that has led to a review and cast scrutiny on pending legislation that would boost their powers to dismantle protests and mass gatherings in the future.