Anger at police and government abuse has been quietly simmering, since the UK BLM demonstrations of summer 2020. Whilst the streets were quieter, the racist and sexist policing has continued. The murder of Sarah Everard, likely by a police officer, led to an out pouring of both grief and louder (but still restrained) anger. Anger at the sexist violence women face on a daily basis, and at a so-called justice system. The largest of the vigils that followed the murder took place on Saturday 13th March on Clapham Common.
As if to prove the latter point, police attacked the vigil. They waited until the numbers at the vigil were smaller, until the sky was darker, and until they had built up enough force to overwhelm the crowd still present. The reports and pictures from these attacks spread, and this created a problem for the police. It also created a problem for their bosses in government, as they were hoping to quietly pass a bill aimed at increasing police powers to target protests, travellers, and those who damaged monuments.
For over a week crowds had been gathering nightly on College Green to mourn women killed by sexist violence, and to protest the complicity of the police in sexist, and other, forms of violence. Alongside this, many had been sharing an anonymous call-out for a demonstration against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, under the slogan #KillTheBill.
From 1.30pm on Sunday, people started to gather near College Green. Police started to approach individuals and small groups, demanding they leave, threatening fines or arrest, or asking them to submit to questioning. However they quickly backed off as the crowds grew. Shortly after 2pm, there were over 5000 people present (the largest demo since the previous summer’s 15,000+ BLM demo).
Over the next few hours crowds moved around central Bristol.
As things were dying down, police manhandled and attempted to remove a protester. It was after this provocation, at about 6pm, that those still up for marching headed towards Bristol’s central police station – Bridewell.
As the situation accelerated at the police station, clashes ensued and police vans were spray painted and set on fire.
People made it to the great glass walls of the station and shattered a panes. Others spray painted windows reached by scaling the part of the police station.
Spontaneous first aid stations were set up, supplies were shared. Running battles would continue for hours, and at least one more police vehicle went up in flames.