It’s a bad advert for city, says Bristol West MP Stephen Williams
BRISTOL West MP Stephen Williams has condemned the violence in Cheltenham Road, describing it as a "bad advert" for the city.
Mr Williams came down to the scene yesterday morning to watch the police operation unfold.
He stayed for several hours and spoke to a number of residents to see what they thought about the tense situation.
The Liberal Democrat MP felt that legitimate, peaceful protests against Tesco had been spoilt by a minority determined to make trouble.
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He said: "This has been hijacked by hard-left, extreme anarchists or anti-capitalists. It's a bad advert for Bristol. This has nothing to do with business practices of supermarkets.
"These people, I don't know what they are – self-indulgent vandals – probably in a few years' time they will be going on nice middle-class skiing holidays.
"The police have to defend themselves, local people and property. I hope it will end peacefully and we can move on."
Although not blaming Tesco for the second spate of violence, the Lib Dem MP had strong words for the supermarket chain.
He said: "It needs to look at its business practices, it clearly has a corporate image problem.
"It needs to look at itself as a company, and the way it got planning permission without disclosing who it was. It needs to make some gesture back to the community."
Mr Williams previously told the Evening Post that Tesco should not move out of the area as "mob rule" was unacceptable.
He stressed that steps had to be taken so that the Telepathic Heights squat could not become a flash point for trouble again.
"The building needs to be made secure," he said.
"The council has carried out a CPO (compulsory purchase order) on it, it's been sold to a private company who will bring it into residential use.
That needs to happen as fast as possible."
The issue was also discussed at the Ashley ward hustings held yesterday evening ahead of the local council election next Thursday. The prospective candidates fighting for Lib Dem Councillor Shirley Brown's vacant seat had their chance to sell themselves to local people gathered at the Malcolm X Centre in St Paul's.
Waliur Rahman (Lib Dem), Thangam Debbonaire (Lab) and Gus Hoyt (Green) all felt that Tesco should never have been given planning permission, given the strong feelings against it from the people living in the Stokes Croft area.
On the council granting permission without public consultation or committee debate, Mr Hoyt said: "It was a very silly thing to do. We're now suffering the consequences and it's a great shame."
Ms Debbonaire added: "I am saying no to Tesco, we've got enough Tesco in Bristol."
Condemning the violence seen in the early hours of yesterday, Mr Rahman said: "I urge people to go through the proper appeals processes rather than the vandalism that was caused today."
Neighbourhood Inspector Keith Rundle, who had spent much of the day on Cheltenham Road, also addressed the community.
He said: "It is our aim now to help the neighbourhood return to normal."
Fielding questions about reports of people being injured by police, Insp Rundle added: "If people have been injured who have been innocent bystanders we need to know that. The only way we can deal with that is if people come forward and tell us what happened."