A protest in the English city of Bristol against new policing legislation turned into violent clashes that left at least 20 officers injured — two of them seriously — widespread damage to a police station and police vehicles torched, police said Monday.
Seven people were arrested during the protest, which started Sunday afternoon and ran through to the early hours of Monday morning. Police said the number of arrests would likely increase in coming days as officers study closed circuit television footage.
The violence, which also saw several police vehicles damaged, was branded as “unacceptable” by Britain’s interior minister, Priti Patel.
“Thuggery and disorder by a minority will never be tolerated,” she said.
What started as a peaceful demonstration of around 3,000 people on College Green in the heart of the city in western England turned violent after hundreds of protesters descended on the New Bridewell police station.
The protesters were ostensibly venting their anger at the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently going through parliament. Under the terms of the legislation, which covers England and Wales, police will be handed new powers to tackle demonstrations.
Many demonstrators donned face masks and carried placards criticizing the legislation, such as “Say no to UK police state” and “Freedom to protest is fundamental to democracy.”
Two of the police officers injured were treated in hospital after suffering broken ribs and an arm. Both have since been discharged.
Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, who said he had “major concerns” about the bill, condemned the violence and said the unrest would be used to justify the legislation.
One of the reasons why the British government has pushed through new legislation on the police’s powers over protests relates to last summer’s anti-racism protests, including the toppling of a statue of slave trader, Edward Colston, in Bristol.