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Clashes between protesters and police in England leave 20 officers injured

Police van on fire in Bristol, England
A vandalized police van ablaze outside a police station in Bristol, England, on Sunday.
(Andrew Matthews / Press Assn.)

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 — and caused extensive damage to a police station and vehicles, police said Monday.

Seven people were arrested during the demonstration, which started Sunday afternoon and ran through to the early hours of Monday. Police said the number of arrests would likely increase in coming days as officers study closed-circuit television video.

The protesters were venting their anger at the Conservative government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently under debate in Parliament. Under the legislation, which covers England and Wales, police would be handed new powers to tackle demonstrations.

The violence in Bristol was condemned as “unacceptable” by British Home Secretary Priti Patel.

“Thuggery and disorder by a minority will never be tolerated,” she said.

What started as a peaceful demonstration of about 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.

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London police stirred outrage when officers clashed with women at a vigil for another woman whom an officer is accused of murdering.

Many demonstrators donned face masks and carried placards criticizing the legislation, such as “Say no to U.K. police state” and “Freedom to protest is fundamental to democracy.”

The protests in Bristol came as Scotland Yard deals with the fallout of its forceful dispersal of a rally by hundreds of people, most of them women, angry over the kidnap and murder of a young woman who was walking home in South London late one night. The suspect in the case is a police officer.

Sue Mountstevens, police and crime commissioner for the Avon and Somerset region, said seven people had been arrested in the Bristol protests and that “many more” would be detained.

“It’s disgraceful and outrageous,” she said. “Police officers went to work yesterday, and some have returned home via hospital, battered and bruised.”

A week after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s televised interview, the tabloids are still dissecting the claims.

Protesters attempted to smash the windows of the glass-fronted police station and damaged 12 vehicles, including two that were set on fire.

Andy Marsh, chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, said “significant damage” was caused to the New Bridewell police station.

“Officers were pelted with stones and missiles and fireworks, and it was a terrifying situation for them to deal with,” he said. “I believe the events of yesterday were hijacked by extremists, people who were determined to commit criminal damage, to generate very negative sentiment about policing and to assault our brave officers.”

Two of the police officers injured were treated in the hospital after suffering broken ribs and an injured 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 the new legislation relates to last summer’s anti-racism protests, including the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.


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