A demonstration against plans to give police more powers to deal with peaceful protests has spilled over into violence described as “disgusting scenes”.
Hundreds of people gathered at College Green in Bristol before marching to a police station on nearby New Bridewell Street, where graffiti was sprayed on an Avon and Somerset Police vehicle and it was rocked side to side by protesters.
Demonstrators were seen smashing the police station’s windows in with skateboards while graffitied police vans were set on fire.
A number of officers have been injured – some with suspected broken arms and ribs, according to the Avon and Somerset Police Federation.
Protesters were observed facing up to riot police who were deployed as the march turned violent as night fell.
Andy Roebuck, chairman of the Avon and Somerset Police Federation, described the culprits as “a mob of animals”.
Police said missiles had been thrown at them, including a firework, and that they have been verbally abused. Mounted officers were forced to intervene to disperse the large crowd.
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 to be too noisy or a nuisance.
Those convicted under the proposed legislation could face a fine or jail.
Mass gatherings are currently banned under the coronavirus legislation and anyone breaching the regulations could be fined.
Many were wearing face masks and carried placards, including slogans such as “say no to UK police state” and “freedom to protest is fundamental to democracy” and “Kill the Bill”.
Mr Roebuck said: “Disgusting scenes in Bristol by a mob of animals who are injuring police officers, members of the public and damaging property.
“Avon and Somerset Police Federation are attending stations to support officers. We have officers with suspected broken arms and ribs. This is so wrong.”
Meanwhile John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said the scenes were “horrendous”.
He added: “This is not protest, it’s just mindless violence. Thoughts are with my colleagues.”
Avon and Somerset Police had urged people not to attend the demonstration, warning that enforcement action could be taken.
A spokesperson said: “We’re aware of a small number of incidences of criminal damage during the afternoon, including graffiti, and these will be investigated.
“Officers have had projectiles thrown at them, including a firework, and have been verbally abused.
“This is unacceptable behaviour and those responsible for offences will be identified and brought to justice.”
The spokesperson added that enforcement action would be taken where appropriate.