Protest over sweeping British law enforcement bill turns violent; 2 officers injured

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March 22 (UPI) — At least two police officers were injured and two police vehicles were set ablaze as protests against a controversial law enforcement bill turned violent in the British city of Bristol.

The local law enforcement department Avon and Somerset Police said in a statement that one officer suffered a broken arm and another sustained broken ribs and were transferred to a local hospital on Sunday after they confronted a small group of protesters who had congregated outside Bridewell Police Station.

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Thousands had arrived earlier Sunday to protest the Police, Crime, Sentence and Courts Bill currently being debated by lawmakers that will restrict protests while arming the police with more power.

Chief Supt. Will White said the protest started peaceful but a small minority turned it into “a violent disorder.”

“These scenes are absolutely disgraceful and they will be widely condemned by people across the city,” White said. “There can never be any excuse for wanton disorder.”

Two police vehicles were set on fire by protesters and the outside of the police station sustained damage, he said, adding he requested assistance from neighboring police departments to quell the violence.

“All those involved in this criminal behavior will be identified and brought to justice,” White said. “There will be significant consequences for behavior such as this.”

Avon and Somerset Police said via Twitter that officers had projectiles including fireworks thrown at them and were verbally abused.

Priti Patel, Britain’s home secretary, condemned the violence as “unacceptable.”

“Thuggery and disorder by a minority will never be tolerated,” she said in a statement.

Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol, in a statement condemned the violence while acknowledging “the frustration” people have with the bill as he described it as “poorly thought-out and could impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to peaceful protest.”

He said they will raise their concerns but the violence seen Sunday has nothing to do with tackling political, economic and social inequality.

“Smashing buildings in our city center, vandalizing vehicles, attacking our police will do nothing to lessen the likelihood of the bill going through,” he said. “On the contrary, the lawlessness on show will be used as evidence and promote the need for the bill.”