Police have clashed with “kill the bill” protesters in Bristol for the fourth time in two weeks and public order officers with dogs and riot shields were used to finally disperse demonstrators in the early hours of Sunday morning.
More than 1,000 protesters gathered in the city and at one point a group marched up the M32 motorway and brought traffic to a standstill by sitting down on the carriageways.
After numbers dwindled to about 100, Avon and Somerset police put in place a dispersal order and scores of public order officers were deployed to drive the remaining protesters out of the city centre.
Several men and women who refused to leave were arrested before officers with riot shields and dogs chased the rest into a park and away.
Bristol has become the focus of protests against the government’s police, crime, sentencing and courts bill.
There have been five demonstrations, with only one passing off completely peacefully. Protesters have criticised police for what they see as heavy-handed tactics.
Saturday’s event was one of a string of protests that took place across England and Wales. Ahead of it, Bristol’s area commander, Supt Mark Runacres, said the force wanted to engage with protesters to make sure the demonstration was peaceful.
About 1,000 people gathered on St Augustine’s Parade in the heart of the city where speeches were made against the bill and many chanted, drank and danced.
For several hours, groups of protesters marched around Bristol and after 9pm a group headed up the M32 north as far as junction three, before jumping over the central reservation and walking back.
After midnight, about 100 protesters remained on St Augustine’s Parade. Police, who had maintained a discreet presence all night, pulled back completely.
Tensions grew after a few dozen protesters began sitting down in the road, not allowing drivers through. At about 12.30am there was a flare-up between a group of young women who had been on a night out and the protesters.
Police enforced a section 35 dispersal order and public disorder officers, who had come from as far afield as Lincolnshire, began to clear the crowd.
The protesters were pushed back from St Augustine’s Parade by a line of officers, who were not wearing helmets or carrying shields. The police grabbed some protesters and pulled them back through their line, where they arrested them.
A second group of officers with shields and dogs then arrived from another direction and chased protesters into Castle Park.
The force tweeted: “A section 35 dispersal order has been put in place in #Bristol city centre. This follows a number of incidents involving violence between the remaining protestors. Officers are now dispersing people from the area.”