Boris Johnson has condemned violent scenes in Bristol as “disgraceful”, after a protest against a new policing bill on Friday night resulted in clashes between demonstrators and police.
The protest was against the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, which would give police greater powers to restrict protests, and initially attracted around 300 people before the crowd swelled to more than 1,000.
Avon and Somerset police said glass bottles, bricks and eggs were thrown at officers. Fireworks were also launched at its mounted division, the force claimed, with one horse being daubed with paint. Ten people were arrested, three of whom had also been detained at similar demonstrations last Sunday.
“Our officers should not have to face having bricks, bottles and fireworks being thrown at them by a mob intent on violence and causing damage to property,” the prime minister tweeted.
Johnson added that the “police and the city have my full support”.
The home secretary, Priti Patel, said she was “disgusted” by the scenes, describing the demonstrators as “thugs” who were “only intent on causing trouble”.
“I’m in no doubt the silent, law-abiding majority will be appalled by the actions of this criminal minority,” she said.
The police, crime, sentencing and courts bill would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on peaceful protests, including those they deem to be too noisy or a nuisance to the community. Those convicted under the laws would be liable for fines or even jail terms.
Critics argue this infringes on the right to free and peaceful expression.
Supt Mark Runacres said the force was expecting more protests over coming days, saying that further demonstrations were “a concern for us”.
“From Monday, changes in the legislation will allow us, hopefully, to engage effectively with protest organisers, which is what we have always done previously prior to the legislation changes around the Covid regulations stopping that happening,” he said.
Before the arrests, protesters could be seen dancing despite heavy rain and handing out flowers.
Rows of police officers and vans blocked off the Bridewell police station from demonstrators, after it was smashed by protesters last Sunday. Around 3,000 people attended what began as a peaceful march, but turned into a riot, with around 500 people marching on the station.
Police came under fire this week when they retracted claims that two officers had suffered fractures in the riot.
Twelve people have been arrested in connection with Sunday’s incident, and a further 15 for a subsequent protest on Tuesday.