CLASHES broke out between police and protesters in Bristol on Sunday during a rally against a new policing bill being debated in the UK parliament.
Protesters could be seen climbing and rocking a police van before the protest turned violent.
Thousands of protesters had filled the streets to voice their discontent at the proposed bill in breach of an ongoing ban on mass gatherings.
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The proposed ‘Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill’ has sparked criticism from activists denouncing an increase in police powers and an attack on civil rights.
Mass gatherings are currently banned under coronavirus legislation and anyone breaching regulations could be fined,
though some MPs have said the law should change to allow protests.
A demonstration about plans to give the police more powers to deal with non-violent protests has turned violent.
Hundreds of people gathered at College Green in Bristol before marching to a police station on nearby Nelson Street.
Pictures showed graffiti being sprayed on an Avon and Somerset Police vehicle and it being rocked side to side by protesters.
Police said missiles had been thrown at them, including a firework, and that they have been verbally abused.
Other pictures showed mounted officers intervening to disperse the large crowd that had gathered outside the New Bridewell police station.
Later, protesters attempted to smash the windows of the glass-fronted police station.
They also tried to set fire to one of the marked police vans parked outside the station but the small flames were quickly extinguished by riot officers.
Other protesters set fire to a police van parked on Bridewell Street, near to the police station.
Andy Roebuck, chairman of the Avon and Somerset Police Federation, said: “Disgusting scenes in Bristol by a mob of animals who are injuring police officers, members of the public and damaging property.
“Avon and Somerset Police Federation are attending stations to support officers. We have officers with suspected broken arms and ribs. This is so wrong.”
John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “Horrendous scenes in Bristol.
“Number of officers badly injured, police vehicles damaged and a police station under attack.
“This is not protest, it’s just mindless violence. Thoughts are with my colleagues.”
Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West, said: “The scenes in Bristol this evening are completely unacceptable.
“You don’t campaign for the right to peaceful protest by setting police vans on fire or graffitiing buildings.
“Avon and Somerset Police were on duty today to facilitate a peaceful protest not to deal with criminal behaviour.”
A police spokesman said: “The protest is now focused on Bridewell Street so we’d advise motorists to avoid this area.
“We’re aware of a small number of incidences of criminal damage during the afternoon, including graffiti, and these will be investigated.
“Officers are continuing to deal with a smaller number of protesters in Bridewell Street.
“They’ve had projectiles thrown at them, including a firework, and have been verbally abused.
“This is unacceptable behaviour and those responsible for offences will be identified and brought to justice.”
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would give the police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance.
Those convicted under the proposed legislation could face a fine or jail.
Mass gatherings are currently banned under the coronavirus legislation and anyone breaching the regulations could be fined.
Many were wearing face masks and carried placards, saying: “Say no to UK police state” and “Freedom to protest is fundamental to democracy” and “Kill the Bill”.
Avon and Somerset Police had urged people not to attend the demonstration, warning that enforcement action could be taken.
“Officers are engaging with a number of people who’ve turned up at the protest,” the spokeswoman added.
“Officers are continuing to engage with those attending.
“Enforcement action will be taken retrospectively when necessary and proportionate.”