activism daily life

Rioting in Stokes Croft, Bristol

The people are rioting in the streets. And it’s not about the Royal Wedding.*

Yes, I did say “riot”, its not hyperbolic, and it’s in my backyard. (Technically, my front street.)

I got home at 5am this morning. After having sat in the middle of a street full of broken glass, surrounded by police dogs, riot vans, and mounted horseback police.

I watched the police charge a crowd, watched a man go down under a horse. I watched the police march in, watched the neighbourhood transform into a post-modern re-imagining of the Haight Ashbury.

For the second time in less than two weeks.

I left my house at 8pm last night to join a few friends and show my face and support for the Stokes Croft community – a disastrous attempt at a peaceful anti-violence demonstrations against (guess what?) police brutality last Thursday.

This afternoon my housemates told me I’d been shown on the news.

I’m still processing just what’s going on, and am gearing up to write my impressions of last night in detail.

In the meantime, Twitter is telling me that a group of masked agitators are back on the street, riot vans returned. Nothing in the news but the wedding – but, what’s become of unbelievably complicated and increasingly violent battle is starting up “round 3” as I write. (I can hear sirens and helicopters. They haven’t gone away since yesterday.)

Pictures & a very quick summary/timeline.

Round 1: Protests against Tesco (think UK’s version of Walmart) get mixed up with evicting squats. An alleged threat of a petrol bomb (Molotov cocktails) and 160 riot cops show up to arrest 4 men – instead, they antagonize the neighbourhood and end up fighting the local community until the early hours of the morning. And, oh yeah, the Tesco’s gets smashed. BBC: Chaos in Bristol’s Cultural Quarter (To understand just how under-stated that headline is, look at these pictures.)

The following week, in true Bristolian fashion, debate and analyses swarm. Community spirit draws those of us in and near Stokes Croft together. An independent short documentary regarding the events is thrown together and the screening of it is shut down by police. (Using anti-rave laws. Makes perfect sense: film screening and political/activist discussion – obviously, a rave. Police confiscate the screen, blockade the street, and the film is still shown a few hours later, in a private house to the few that managed to find it.)

Round 2: An anti-violence demonstration was planned on the week anniversary of the first riot. Then “cancelled” by the organizer, who was understandably worried about it getting out-of-hand – but perhaps short-sighted in thinking that deleting a Facebook page would solve the situation. BBC’s coverage of last night & a blogger and fellow protester’s take. It was a disaster, with plenty of blame to spread around police, protesters, anarchists, “riot tourists” and every type of gawking aggressive idiot.


*Except that maybe, it sort of is, apparently, about the Royal Wedding. The police have been <a href=””>heavy-handedly attempting to prevent any and all</a> from “causing a scene” arresting and attacking protesters, demonstrators, and squatters throughout the southern cities – including pre-emptive pre-crime arrests on the mere suspicion of likelihood.

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