What it was like inside police HQ during Kill The Bill protest in Bristol

  • Watch Richard Payne's report

ITV West Country's Richard Payne was in Avon and Somerset Police's control room as the fourth 'Kill The Bill' protest passed relatively peacefully:We're sitting in an unremarkable office in suburban North Somerset watching a dozen or so people quietly going about their work. 

It's easy to forget that from here, they're conducting police operations into protests which have, for more than a week now, captured the attention not only of a city but a nation and attracted headlines around the world.

The usually calm atmosphere is in sharp contrast to the event they're seeing played out on large TV screens dotted around the walls. From the desks, some have more detailed, often secretive information to digest.

Everyone knows their job. A quick contact over the earpiece, an update of a log and you imagine a hundred colleagues and more are instantly informed.

This is Silver Command at Avon and Somerset Police HQ in Portishead, never seen by the public, rarely by the media but, in what I take to be an attempt at transparency, ITV News has been invited to see the operation unfold in real time.

There are Bronze commanders on the ground feeding back, Silver and Gold in the office. All in constant dialogue, finessing their plans like a game of chess, subtle adjustments here and there to react to the protesters moves or, ideally, to proactively anticipate them.

After the violence on previous Kill the Bill protests, this one soon looks and feels different. As the night progresses the shoulders relax a little, the glances to one another seem less urgent.

You feel after previous losses on both 'sides', this night is a win-win for police and protesters. 

No-one will claim victory, of course. There's legislation to protest for one group, a peace to keep for the other.

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: