Senior police officer defends use of force to disperse Bristol 'Kill the Bill' protesters

  • Watch Richard Payne's full interview.

The senior officer who ordered police to use force to disperse hundreds of protesters at a Kill the Bill protest in Bristol has told ITV News she had no choice.

In an exclusive interview, Ch Supt Claire Armes claimed it was only when her colleagues came under attack from a minority of troublemakers did she retaliate with riot police, horses and dogs.

"Any debris which could have been thrown, was thrown," she said.

"The situation escalated because of the violence and hostility that was displayed towards the officers.

"I witnessed bricks, I witnessed lots of glass bottles, we had information that there was a smell of ammonia which is sometimes thrown at that point, the protest is no longer peaceful."

A riot van on fire outside Bridewell Police Station. Credit: ITv

There has been widespread criticism of the police's handling of the protest in the city centre on Friday, March 26 with claims the demonstration was peaceful until police struck people with riot shields.

There was also criticism of the way Avon and Somerset Police had retracted its claims about two of its officers being injured during an earlier protest on 21 March.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was among many to condemn the “disgraceful attacks” on police officers during the third protest.

Glass windows at Bridewell Police Station in Bristol city centre were smashed by rioters.

When is the next Bristol Kill The Bill protest taking place?

  • Saturday 4 April: A national day of action is planned with an event due to begin on College Green from 4pm.

Adverts being circulated on social media are reminding demonstrators to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) like face masks, and socially distance wherever possible.

What is 'Kill the Bill'?

People have been demonstrating against a proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would give police increased power to stop protests.

The Bill also makes a special new law to protect monuments and statues, in the wake of the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston, with the crime of damaging them punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Under new government proposals trespass would become a criminal offence - rather than being a civil matter - in order to tackle unauthorised encampments, giving police the power to seize vehicles and arrest people who refuse to move.

Those breaking the new law on trespass could be fined up to £2,500 and could face a prison sentence of up to three months, but concerns have been raised by both academics and organisations that the new law will disproportionately affect travellers and more widely those living on roadside camps.

Read more: