Bristol riots against new protest laws 'evil and shameful', says Yorkshire MP

A Yorkshire MP has dubbed riots in Bristol against new proposed police powers as “evil and shameful”, but urged the Home Secretary to preserve the right to protest in upcoming laws.

Speaking in the Commons today, Haltemprice and Howden Conservative David Davies said the scenes in Bristol showed how the police must have powers to deal with “dangerous acts masquerading behind the right to demonstrate.

Questioning Priti Patel he said: “The simple truth is that those evil and shameful acts demonstrated only too clearly the need for the police to have powers to deal with disruptive, dangerous actions masquerading behind the right to demonstrate and that she’s right to promote that.”

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But he added: “That being said, many of us – I suspect including [the Home Secretary] – view the right to demonstrate peacefully as a foundation stone of our democracy.”

People take part in a 'Kill the Bill' protest in Bristol, demonstrating against the Government's controversial Police and Crime Bill. Photo: PA

And he urged Ms Patel to “make sure that the right to demonstrate peacefully is absolutely guaranteed in our law.”

Ms Patel said the right to protest peacefully is a “cornerstone of our democracy”, adding: “It is one this Government will always defend.”

The Home Secretary said she will “work with everybody” to ensure the police have the powers they need to tackle the “kind of appalling thuggery and criminality” seen in Bristol.

Yvette Cooper, Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford Labour MP and the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, also deemed the scenes as “unacceptable”, and in the Commons she also paid tribute to PC Keith Palmer, who was killed four years ago protecting Parliament during a terrorist attack.

Police said seven people had been arrested, six for violent disorder and a seventh for possession of an offensive weapon, following Sunday night’s riot.

Twenty police officers were injured, two seriously, when what started as a peaceful demonstration turned violent after about 500 protesters descended on the New Bridewell police station.

Two of those injured were treated in hospital after suffering a punctured lung and broken ribs, and a fractured arm, respectively. Both have since been discharged.

Police said between 2,000 and 3,000 people had gathered at College Green on Sunday to protest against the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Andy Marsh, chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, said the demonstration had been “hijacked” by several hundred “extremists”.

Ms Patel told the Commons: “The scenes in Bristol yesterday were utterly shameful. We saw criminal thuggery and disorder caused by a minority who put lives at risk.

“Our exceptional and brave police officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public. For them to face the criminal violence against them while upholding the law is completely unacceptable.

“My thoughts are with the injured officers and their family, and I hope that every single Member of Parliament in this House will join me in condemning the shameful actions of the criminal minority involved.”

While Boris Johnson has described the violent scenes as “unacceptable”.

Speaking to broadcasters at BAE Systems in Preston, the Prime Minister said: “I think all that kind of thing is unacceptable and the people obviously have a right to protest in this country.

“But they should protest peacefully and legally.”

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would give the police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance.

Those convicted under the proposed legislation could face a fine or jail.