Ten arrests have been made after what police called unacceptable “violent conduct” at the third Kill the Bill demonstration in Bristol.
Some 300 people initially joined a protest march through the city centre against the Government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on Friday night, before the crowd swelled to more than 1,000 as tempers flared.
Police officers wearing helmets and holding shields moved towards the protesters after 10pm, after calling for the crowd to disperse due to Covid restrictions.
Avon and Somerset Police said glass bottles, bricks and eggs were thrown at officers and fireworks were launched at its mounted division, with one horse being daubed with paint.
Protesters had also shone laser lights into officers’ faces, the force said.
“The majority of people acted peacefully however there was a minority who showed hostility to officers,” Superintendent Mark Runacres said in a statement.
“This violent conduct is not acceptable.
“Officers repeatedly encouraged people to disperse but once the atmosphere changed and people became physical it was necessary to take action.”
Three of those arrested were also detained in connection with last Sunday’s first march, which was followed by another violent demonstration on Tuesday night.
Supt Runacres added: “All the officers policing the incident are specially trained and accredited in public order and showed exceptional patience in the face of a significant disorder.
“At times reasonable force had to be used – this is not something we ever want to do but we have a duty to uphold the law, prevent crime, and protect people and property.”
A large police presence was on duty during the demonstration, with horses and dogs used to help move the crowd back.
Prior to the arrests, protesters had been spotted dancing to music despite heavy rain, handing out flowers and chanting slogans such as “Who do you protect?” and “Justice for Sarah” in reference to murder victim Sarah Everard.
Serving police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, from Deal, Kent, has been charged with her murder.
Rows of officers and vans blocked the protesters from Bridewell police station, the scene of Sunday’s violence.
The proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance, with those convicted liable to fines or jail terms.
The first demonstration last Sunday began peacefully with around 3,000 attending, but descended into a riot when some 500 people marched on Bridewell police station.
Twelve people have been arrested in connection with that protest, in which officers were attacked, police vehicles were set on fire and the windows of a police station smashed.
The force later retracted claims two officers suffered fractures in Sunday night’s riot.
“We believed the information had been verified but it had not, and while we apologise for that there was no intention to mislead,” a force spokesman said.