Riot on a street in Bristol as police clash with anti-Tesco protesters
POLICE and protesters clashed last night in a full-scale riot on Stokes Croft.
Bricks, bottles and stones were thrown at officers as several hundred people gathered on Cheltenham Road.
As well as eight officers ending up in hospital with injuries, the new controversial Tesco store was smashed up and looted in the early hours of this morning.
At its peak, 160 police officers, clad in riot gear and shields, were required to quell the violence.
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The disorder escalated after Avon and Somerset constabulary raided a property occupied by squatters opposite Tesco.
During the course of the afternoon people in the community became concerned after seeing people bringing what looked like petrol bombs in and out of the house and a man on the roof with what looked like a petrol can.
At about 9.15pm, a team of officers forced entry to the building.
The officers were not met with resistance and recovered petrol and several ready-made petrol bombs.
One man was yesterday being questioned on suspicion of threats to cause criminal damage with intent to endanger life and three others were arrested on suspicion of public order offences.
But as the police started to leave the area, a group gathered and grew quickly grew to several hundred on the road outside.
>People started barricading the road with street furniture, bikes and bins, and several bins were set alight.
Soon missiles, including bottles and stones were being thrown at the officers.
Assistant Chief Constable Rod Hansen said: “Residents have called us to several incidents in the property over the past few days. Yesterday, there was a very real threat to the local community from the petrol bombs that were being made and we needed to take positive action.
“The safety of the public is paramount in any situation of this kind and we took the decision to carry out a swift arrest operation, following intelligence received about the criminal intentions of those who were occupying the building.
“The fact that we seized petrol bombs illustrates the seriousness of this situation and the reason why we took this positive action.
“When 300 people congregated and a small minority from that group started small fires and throwing bottles, stones and other items at officers, we used well-rehearsed plans, which involved the use of officers from neighbouring forces to control what had become a volatile situation.”
With reinforcements called in – plus officers from Wiltshire, Gwent and South Wales police – officers managed to disperse the crowds at various times during the night, but a hardcore persisted.
At 2.30am, the riot peaked and the groups started attacking Tesco, ripping off the shutters, smashing windows and looting, while two security guards were inside the property.Mr Hansen added: “That was clearly dangerous and life-threatening behaviour so we needed to respond to that.”
In the clashes, eight police officers had to go to hospital for head, neck and shoulder injuries and twisted ankles. One officer even had teeth knocked out.
Another five members of the public were arrested on suspicion of violent disorder.
“It was a difficult situation and we did our best to disperse the crowds,” Mr Hansen added. “It was a violent confrontation. Many people did comply with our directions and were there to protest in a peaceful, law-abiding way, but there was a hard-core who continued to be violent.
“People have a right to protest lawfully and while it is lawful, we have a duty and a will to help them do that.
“If people want to come down and take part in any illegal, non-peaceful protest, I would urge them to stay away because we will police that to ensure the wider community of Bristol is not threatened.”
Fore more reaction and pictures, see tomorrow’s Evening Post.