Events in Bristol 21 March

The events that took place in Bristol on Sunday night, and footage shared on social media and in the wider media, have shocked the community.

As part of an interview with Politics Live on Monday lunchtime, this subject was raised. I stand by my decision not to wade in with sweeping statements before the full facts about the causes of the breakdown in public order had been established. There should be a full investigation into what happened and I want to be cautious about commenting too much before this has taken place.

However, I want to reflect on the reaction to my comments. My desire not to make blanket judgements without the full facts has been misinterpreted by some as suggesting that I condone violence against the police. I want to make it very clear that this is not the case. I reiterate again that I am strongly against the use of violence against anyone.

Footage that I have seen since the interview of potentially life-endangering actions such as attempting to set vans with police officers inside them on fire, are shocking and wholly unacceptable. My thoughts are with those injured on Sunday, to whom I wish a full and speedy recovery.

What must not be lost in this conversation is this Conservative government’s continued slide into authoritarianism. It was the introduction of the illiberal and draconian Policing Bill which brought people to the streets in the first place. All of us should be united in campaigning for it to be scrapped. 

The Bill represents the biggest assault on the right to peaceful protest in a generation. It provides unaccountable power to shut down protests for being too disruptive or making too much noise. Protesters could be given jail terms of causing an “annoyance”. It also criminalises Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. 

We are in desperate need of a government with the courage, competency and vision to address the root causes of mass civil discontent on climate change, racial injustice and violence against women rather than seeking to stifle the expression of these concerns through heavy-handed legislation. 

I will continue to stand against this Bill and support peaceful protest against it. If we want peaceful protest, peaceful protest must be allowed to take place.