Bristol riots: Police tactics questioned after second night of violence in Stokes Croft

Questions are being asked as to why a peaceful protest descended into violence on Thursday night in Stokes Croft.

From around 9pm onwards crowds had gathered for a previously-cancelled protest against alleged police brutality during the riots a week earlier before violence broke out at around 1am.

Protesters stood outside the Telepathic Heights squat – the scene of a police raid which sparked last week’s violence – playing music while several police vans waited cautiously nearby.

According to police reports, mounted officers and riot police moved in at around 1am after a small group began throwing bottles at officers.

Witnesses saw police on horseback charge along Stokes Croft and Cheltenham Road, knocking protesters to the ground, before the area was sealed off.

But officers failed to contain the outburst and it appears that rioters unconnected with the original protest soon joined in, throwing bottles and concrete at police.

They have also been accused of using violent tactics, with one witness telling the BBC he needed hospital treatment after receiving blows to his head and legs.

Officers were previously accused of heavy-handedness during last week’s riots and also earlier in the week when they stopped a film screening taking place in Mina Road Park, St Werburgh’s.

Organisers of The Occasional Cinema, a non-regular event putting on outdoor film screenings, had been planning to show a short film made up of citizen footage from the riots when they claim police confiscated their screen.

Attendees also claim that, as they moved to a nearby private address to watch the film, police attempted to block the surrounding roads and informed passers by they couldn’t get through because the event was a ‘rave’.

Yesterday, while a clear-up was in place, bailiffs moved in and evicted the occupants of Telepathic Heights. The windows of the vibrant graffiti-covered building are now boarded shut and its doors sealed tight.

The move appeared to be in accordance with a nationwide crackdown on squatted properties, with buildings in Brighton and London also raided earlier in the week.

An uneasy calm has now returned to Stokes Croft, with police officers still on the streets but no further outbreaks of violence as yet.

The Cheltenham Road Tesco, which was badly damage during last week’s riots, remains boarded up while the council stay tight-lipped over its future.

A meeting has been called tomorrow afternoon (01/05/2011) at the Polish Church for members of the community to discuss what to do about the situation.

by Stokes Croft Town Crier