Police officers and protesters were injured today after further demonstrations against a Tesco store in a city centre turned violent.
Problems began when bottles were thrown at officers in Cheltenham Road, Stokes Croft, Bristol.
The disturbances, which eyewitnesses said began at about 1am, happened after a peaceful event earlier in the evening.
Avon and Somerset Police said officers moved in to “contain a group of protesters” who were wearing masks and throwing bottles.
A number of officers were injured in the disturbance, the force said.
However, the tactics used by police have been condemned by protesters.
Richard Ayres, 39, told the BBC: “I received three blows to my legs and a blow to my head for which I have received hospital treatment.”
He said he joined the protest to “show solidarity to those who had been treated violently” during the previous protests.
Mr Ayres claimed mounted police officers “rushed down the middle of the street” after Cheltenham Road was closed at about midnight.
“We were knocked to the side by them and were then shoved back by riot police with helmets, shields, truncheons and dogs,” he said.
“I remonstrated with them peacefully, flabbergasted at the sudden turn of events.”
Police said neighbourhood officers were “actively engaging” with what was a peaceful gathering earlier in the evening outside the squat known as the Telepathic Heights.
However, support was called in after a number of people became violent, put on masks and began throwing bottles at police.
Assistant Chief Constable Rod Hansen said: “Unfortunately a number of people attended this event to incite violence and cause criminal damage.
“We will not tolerate this behaviour in our communities. Our primary concern is to keep people safe.
“Throughout the week our neighbourhood officers have received the message from local residents and businesses that they do not want any further disruption.
“There was further evidence of this earlier this evening during the build-up to the trouble.
“A minority have clearly been intent on creating a volatile situation and committing criminal acts of disorder. We are taking swift and robust action to arrest those responsible.”
Rick Palmer, service director at Bristol City Council, said: “What we have seen tonight is totally unacceptable behaviour which is clearly not supported by local people.”
Last night’s skirmishes happened six days after a riot in same area when about 160 officers in riot gear swooped on a house to arrest four people they said were “a real threat to the local community”.
The crowd dug up cobbles from the road surface to throw at the police and a branch of Tesco Metro, which has been subject of a campaign to prevent its recent opening, was petrol-bombed.
Police said later that 15 people were arrested and more arrests were expected.
Several officers suffered head, neck, back and leg injuries, and required hospital treatment after being pelted with bottles, rocks and other missiles.
Avon and Somerset Police said around eight neighbourhood beat officers had been engaging with a peaceful gathering in Cheltenham Road yesterday evening.
Two bottles were thrown at the police, but officers did not respond to try to ensure the mood stayed peaceful, the force said.
“Police were determined to keep the peace and not be perceived as provocative or inflammatory in any way,” a force spokesman said.
“Two community mediators spoke to the group responsible for throwing the bottle to appeal for calm.
“A group then splintered off, some of whom donned masks and armed themselves with rocks and bottles, and started heading towards the city centre.
“Neighbourhood officers tried to speak to them again but the crowd responded by pelting police with a hail of missiles.
“Officers had no choice but to withdraw and seek support from colleagues wearing protective clothing.”
There were then clashes between police and protesters, resulting in injuries on both sides.
Police urged people to stay away from the area while the situation was brought under control.
But the crowd grew, from around 250 or so protesters earlier in the evening to more than 400.
Officers from several other forces provided support to the Avon and Somerset force.
Assistant Chief Constable Rod Hansen said: “Our primary concern is to keep people safe.
“Unfortunately, a number of people attended this event intent on inciting violence and causing criminal damage.
“That behaviour cannot be allowed to occur in our communities.
“Throughout the past week, our neighbourhood officers have received the strong message from local residents and traders that they do not want further disruption.
“They wanted calm to be restored to the area so that they could return to their lives and businesses as normal.
“There was further evidence of this earlier last evening in the build-up to the gathering.
“Nevertheless, people did still gather.
“It is very disappointing that a number of them were clearly intent on inciting trouble and committing criminal acts of disorder.
“This included breaking down residential walls and removing roof tiles to use as missiles, lighting fires, setting up barricades in the road and daubing graffiti throughout the area.
“We took swift and robust action to try to prevent further violence and damage to property.
“I am satisfied that our tactics were appropriate and proportionate, and feel that the officers involved acted professionally and with great restraint, given the threat and personal danger they faced.
“We will always respect the right of any individual or group to take part in a peaceful protest, and events earlier in the evening were, indeed, good-natured.
“But when disorder occurs, we have a duty to the wider community to do everything we can to calm the situation and restore order.
“We have already started the process of studying CCTV footage.
“We are determined to identify people involved in the disorder last night.
“Where we do that, we will arrest them and bring them before the courts.
“I know the wider community will support our efforts and together we can send the very strong message that violent disorder is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
“We work very closely with many members of the community, community leaders, interest groups, the commercial sector and residents’ associations to resolve any community issues.
“To those who are responsible for committing serious crime, I can only reiterate that we have made 15 arrests already and I anticipate making many more from the video evidence we have obtained and using statements from victims and witnesses.
“I would urge those who seek to cause harm to listen to their community and respect its wishes.”
A spokesman for Tesco said: “It is very sad that a number of individuals have once again turned against the police and the local community.
“Last night’s violence in Stokes Croft and beyond underlined that this is not an anti-Tesco protest, our store is not even open.”
Bristol Tesco Protests
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