‘We need an inquiry’ - Bristol protest policing questioned by PCC candidates

  • Watch: PCC candidates on protest violence in Bristol

Questions have been asked of Avon and Somerset Police’s handling of recent protests in Bristol by those standing to become the force’s next Police and Crime Commissioner.

Candidates contesting the role, which will be decided at a local election on 6 May, spoke to ITV News West Country about the recent demonstrations in the city.

Three protests have been held since 21 March, all of which have resulted in disorder and arrests - while there is an ongoing appeal to identify others who were involved.

The force has been criticised, however, for its handling of the protests - with some questioning the tactics used to disperse protesters.

Here is what the candidates had to say…

Kerry Barker, Labour

Labour PCC candidate Kerry Barker

"I thought last year, when they dealt with the Black Lives Matter protests and also the Sarah Everard vigil this year, the police were excellent.

"The violence against them on Sunday night was dreadful - clearly unlawful violence. But on Friday night, there were some images of the police using their shields and batons against people sitting in the road and that’s now lawful violence to use their shields and batons that way. 

"That’s not reasonable force, so there have been bad things on both sides," he added.

Cleo Lake, Green

Green PCC Candidate Cleo Lake

"Journalists and peaceful protesters were met with violence by the police," she said.

"I can’t support that. I think it’s important that, if I was Police and Crime Commissioner, I work closely with the police. 

"Maybe they need more support, in terms of how they can react in a different way or not react in certain ways in these instances knowing emotions are running high at the minute."

Heather Shearer, Liberal Democrat

Liberal Democrat Candidate Heather Shearer.

"We are, of course, appalled to see violence on the streets but we think something has gone wrong somewhere and we need to have an inquiry I think to understand what the truth is of the situation," she said.

"The videos are awful that are coming out, we can’t condone violence on either side but we need to have the police look at what they’re doing and understand from an inquiry what’s happened and how to make it better."

Mark Shelford, Conservative

Conservative PCC Candidate Mark Shelford.

"It is entirely appropriate that the police should have a public order operation when a peaceful demonstration, which is illegal at the moment, turns into a riot," he said.

"It is outrageous that the rioters should attack the police, who are the very people that run to danger to keep us safe.

"That’s not to say there can’t be lessons learned and if I was the PCC, I would be asking the Chief Constable to review the operation and learn lessons from it."

John Smith, Independent

John Smith is an independent candidate standing in the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commission election.

"I think you have to look at the context of what happened on Friday night," he said. "The police had already facilitated protests for six hours.

"At 10pm, they were faced with a crowd of two or three hundred people who refused to disperse despite several warnings. 

"I don’t think they had any alternative but to disperse the crowd and I think it’s fair to ask those protesters who hadn’t gone home - many did - why they remained there and what else they were trying to achieve at 10pm."

When is the PCC election?

Residents across Avon and Somerset Police's area will vote for a new Police and Crime Commissioner in May.

The PCC elections are held every four years and the position is currently held by Sue Mountstevens, who is stepping down.

Ballots will be held on Thursday, 6 May - the same day as the local council elections.

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