90 days from today is Mon, 16 September 2024

Avon & Somerset Police Federation

One year on: Avon and Somerset Police Federation's Chair reflects on the Bristol riots that left dozens of officers injured

21 March 2022

“The right to peaceful protest should always exist, but our officers should never be subjected to violence – colleagues feared for their lives…”

Avon and Somerset Police Federation Chair Mark Loker has been reflecting one year after dozens of colleagues were injured policing protests – which escalated into riots - in Bristol.

Forty-four officers were injured in the ‘Kill the Bill’ protests by being kicked, punched and struck by missiles including rocks, bricks and glass bottles. Even more officers were assaulted but escaped injury.

As scores of people have been jailed for their actions in March 2021, Courts have heard how many Avon and Somerset Police officers had been “greatly affected” by the riots and some had thought they were going to die.

Avon and Somerset Police Federation Chair Mark Loker said: “There’s never a place for such public disorder. There was a mob mentality from the outset. Many people who attended under the guise of a peaceful protest only had malevolent intent and that’s been very, very clear from the convictions that followed.

“The right to peaceful protest should always exist, but our officers should never be subjected to violence, where they are kicked, punched, have their PPE turned into weapons, and are assaulted in the execution of their duty. It’s not acceptable.”

He added that it was a “significant disappointment” that the College of Policing had not backed up officers’ tactics during the riots, which had been authorised policing practice.

Mark said: “The one thing we’ve been grateful for is the sentencing of the perpetrators. In a court statement, one of our officers said that they had to make a decision of whether to sit in a burning vehicle or exit the vehicle and be mauled by a mob. The sentencing makes it very clear that that is not tolerated.

“We can prepare for protests in the future with stricter controls, stricter guidelines and education. To assault police officers and destroy property under the guise of a peaceful protest should not be allowed, and this stronger and stricter sentencing is proof of that.”