Watch: Peaceful protests in Somerset towns over Easter weekend
Written by Bridgwater Mercury on April 4, 2021
PEACEFUL protests took place across Somerset yesterday against the new policing bill.
Many turned up to support the cause in Taunton, but the largest demonstration was in Bristol, with around 1,500 people.
The protests in all towns were peaceful, but after a Section 35 Dispersal Order was implemented in Bristol, seven people were arrested.
In Taunton, people from BLM Taunton and Extinction Rebellion Youth (XR Youth) organised the protest at Market House from 12pm until 2pm.
This demonstration was after Kill The Bill protesters called for a National Weekend of Action over the Easter bank holiday weekend.
The demonstrations are against the Government’s Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill, which criminalises protests deemed a “public nuisance”.
Protestors Jack Gui and Henry Atkinsonbody, said: “This bill is the biggest assault on our democracy – we deserve a right to choose and this bill takes away our freedom.
“There was a good turn out today.”
Another woman who attended the protest, but did not wish to be named, said: “The policing bill is suppressing any marginalised community, which is a terrifying prospect.
“The bill takes power away from the people.”
Avon and Somerset Police said they would like to thank those who worked with them to ensure peaceful protests across the county.
But they added that their priority is always the safety of the public.
Superintendent Mark Runacres said: “We’d like to thank those who worked with us to ensure yesterday’s main events were peaceful.
“In Bristol in particular we saw an increasing number of protestors engaging with our police liaison officers which we’re grateful for.
“Policing protests is always difficult in that we have to balance the rights of protestors with other members of the public.
“At times a relatively small group of people did cause significant disruption to motorists as they marched through Bristol and onto the motorway and I understand the frustration that would’ve caused.
“Our priority is always the safety of the public and like all incidents, we evaluated every action the protestors took based on the threat, harm and risk they posed to themselves and to others.
“Dispersing protestors while they were on a live carriageway presented an unacceptable risk and the safest thing to do was to allow the protest to run its course.
“At around midnight there were several altercations between the small number of people who remained in the city centre. We never tolerate violence and so we made the decision to move people on.
“It’s disappointing that once again there were those who refused to listen to our requests to leave and that we had to make arrests.
“One of the reasons why we continue to urge protest organisers to contact us prior to their event is so we can discuss how we can ensure it takes place safely and with as little disruption to the wider public as possible.
“We also can’t forget that Covid-19 hasn’t gone away and restrictions remain in place.
“We’d rather people chose to express themselves in ways other than gathering in large numbers but if they do, we’d encourage them to work with us so together we can minimise the risk of spreading the virus.”
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