by Will Lloyd
Monday, 22
March 2021
Behind the news
15:00

Bristolians have always loved rioting

The city has a long and illustrious history of setting itself on fire
by Will Lloyd
It’s difficult to pick out the most surreal moment from the footage of Bristol’s riots yesterday

It’s difficult to pick out the most surreal moment from the footage of Bristol’s riots yesterday. Was it the guy who, in a spirit of generosity, tried to feed a police officer’s dog a slice of takeaway pizza? Maybe it was the moment two women urinated in front of a shieldwall of riot police? For me it was the man who drove through the crowd of very middle-class protestors on a mobility scooter, blaring Jungle before the disturbances began later in the evening. 

Ostensibly last night’s protest was about the right to protest. Online, our finest journo-activists shoehorned Bristol’s torched police vans, graffitied buildings, and smashed windows into a political narrative of generational inequality and authoritarian Tory government. Nigel Farage said it was all about BLM

Alternatively, it had a lot to do with Bristol. 

Anybody who has spent any significant time in Bristol knows that it is not like other cities in England. Like Portland in the United States, in Bristol expressions of civic pride often take the form of mob violence. 

Bristol is genuinely distinct from the rest of the country in how anti-authoritarian it is, and has been for over 200 years. Take the largely forgotten Queens Square riots of 1831. On this occasion Bristolians were furious that their local magistrate, Sir Charles Wetherall, had denounced the Reform Bill, which was struggling to get through a Tory-dominated House of Lords. When Wetherall made his next public appearance in the city a mob chased him to Mansion House in Queens Square. The mob knew the only way to ensure Wetherall changed his mind about the bill was to burn down the building he was hiding in, right after drinking all the booze they found in its basement. After three days the violence ended, with much of the city centre destroyed, and hundreds dead or injured. 

In the 20th century Bristol had four major riots. It was also the only city in England where Winston Churchill was attacked by a protestor armed with a horse whip. (Churchill didn’t press charges, but his assailant, a suffragette, was locked up anyway. She set her cell on fire soon afterwards). 

Recent years saw Bristolians burn down a Tesco Express and chase Jeremy Hunt around the city, while the city continues to win made-up awards like “The UK’s most liveable city” and “Europe’s Green Capitol.” The only shock when that statue of Edward Colston was pulled down last June was that it didn’t happen years earlier. So the gap continues between Bristolians’ self-image — cool, relaxed, and just slightly better than the rest of the country — and the reality of a city where every attempt at localism that doesn’t involve destroying property fails. It’s all part of its charm.

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Richard E
Richard E
1 year ago

Let’s put this in context.
In Bristol the police pandered to the BLM, and ANTIFA, then the various eco protests blocking roads, they even stood back when the protesters threw Colston’s statue into the docks.
At the same time they have gone in hard on anyone trying to protect the statues, any protests against lockdown, anyone taking their kids to the park during lockdown, or meeting a friend at the beach, pulling over cars to investigate where the driver dares to go in their own country. The police have in-prisoned us for months.
They always love the soft targets of those that generally are law abiding, and pander to those on the left and the tough targets (think black inner city gangs and the muslim rape gangs).
They fail to support people who are real victims of crime whilst monitoring and interfering with free speech.
Last night they learned that pandering to the left and taking the knee don’t earn you any immunity from these people.
The police deserved exactly what they got, and I hope it happens all over the country in the weeks ahead.
Seeing the police getting a kicking last night from the left – it was like natural justice, chickens coming home to roost and karma all in one – I do genuinely believe that only rioting will set us free from the lockdown.
I do think that riots will spread all across the UK and Europe this summer – maybe even sooner – and I do think the police really do deserve a kicking for what they have put the people of this country through.
It is not a defence to say they were just obeying orders. I thought the trials after WWII and places like Auschwitz settled that.

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard E
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard E

Good post. There were big street parties in Marseille and Annecy yesterday in defiance of the lockdowns. And I agree with everything you say about the police. They have totally lost my trust over the last few year, not least due their astonishing criminality, as evidenced by stories every day of policemen and women (often quite senior) being guilty of drunk driving, financial fraud, sexual crimes etc.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I find it fine the occasional Police are caught breaking the law BECAUSE they are as human and fallible as we are, and it shows they will prosecute another uniform.

I think the British Police are a joke though. PC gone mad, as it were.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard E

Good post. There were big street parties in Marseille and Annecy yesterday in defiance of the lockdowns. And I agree with everything you say about the police. They have totally lost my trust over the last few years, not least due their astonishing criminality, as evidenced by stories every day of policemen and women (often quite senior) being found guilty of very serious crimes.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard E

To be fair the ultimate responsibility rests with Parliament, which sadly has proved totally unfit for purpose.

We need something like splendid little Switzerland has, but given the venal nature of our Political Class that is unlikely. So we must “reap the whirlwind”

Margaret Donaldson
Margaret Donaldson
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard E

My apologies but I have not seen or spoken to a police person yet during this lockdown. There have been no riots in this area. I do know of police who have got to would be suicides in time, been too late and had to deal with that, sorted people out after road accidents, found out who murdered whom. Trivial things like that. Police are not gods but generally they do a good job if thankless job of enforcing the law. One would need to know the total number of police and total number of corrupt/criminal police to find out how corrupt they actually are. A task for Unherd?

Richard E
Richard E
1 year ago

Your logic means that unless you know every police person personally and know about every individual crime you can’t have an opinion.

Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard E

That does’nt make sense in relation to the above comment.

Last edited 1 year ago by Claire D
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard E

So, your logic says that the police are bad, without knowing details of each crime – and that is OK. But if you say the police are good, without knowing details of each crime, you can’t have an opinion. How conceited is that?

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

Its not a case of bad or good people its a failed system. The police are in the classic middle manager trap – hated by those they are paid to control and scorned by those paying for the controlling for ineffective delivery. All the while they are tormented by PC jargon and bureaucracy. Maybe the Spanish system would help – 4 tiers of cop, in some competition, Guardia at the top in case of real civil unrest or violent gang wars? Maybe a restart from the local level upward bit like the citizens groups (militia) in early Soviet Russia or in the US for decades after independence. If the last option were taken UK would need to drastically change its legal code. Go back to the 10 commandments. If you keep the current system where skin colour, religion, view on trans rights, choice of drug, car or music can get you criminalised then there’d be civil war!

Last edited 1 year ago by mike otter
Julian Fletcher
Julian Fletcher
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard E

It’s not the police that enact laws. They enforce the laws. The politicians, if any, are the people who should get the kicking.

Richard E
Richard E
1 year ago

That’s the ‘only obeying orders’ defence. The guards at Auschwitz used that too.

Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard E

Comparing our British police force with Na zi concentration camp guards shows either,
you hold extreme Left-wing views and will therefore say anything, however indiscriminate, to justify your own bad behaviour and ill will;
or you are ignorant of the full horror of the Na zi concentration camps.

Last edited 1 year ago by Claire D
Richard E
Richard E
1 year ago
Reply to  Claire D

I was referring to the most famous example of the fact that it is not enough to just simply say that you were following orders. That’s my only point.

Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard E

But the British police are not on trial are they ? You may disapprove of them enforcing the law at the present time but on the whole those laws, whilst they are a bit concerning in their direction, do not entail systematic cruelty and genocide.

Let’s just get things in proportion shall we.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  Claire D

Personally, Claire, I disapprove of them not enforcing the law in the case of BLM, while vigorously enforcing it against harmless old duffers like Piers Corbyn.

Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago

I agree with you.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

The problem, Julian, is that the police have been very selective in their enforcement of lockdown laws and it’s coming back to bite them.

David Boulding
David Boulding
1 year ago

“It’s not the police that enact laws. They enforce the laws.”
The Police clearly only enforce laws when they are minded to. For the Bristol event the Police selectively chose NOT to enforce the law and stood back and watched the wanton destruction of a grade II listed statue – just as the Met left Churchill’s monument and the Cenotaph etc be defaced.
In London we have uniformed black paramilitaries parading (unlawful) in the streets and also breaking lockdown laws too. And the Police do precisely nothing.
Yesterday the Police tried to close down a Polish Catholic mass. Will they be going to the Mosque on Friday to do the same?
I presume that the Police & Crime Commissioner (a political appointment) should share much of the blame for this.
The law should be applied WITHOUT FAVOUR. This is currently NOT happening as special interest groups have now become untouchable.
When the law is applied selectively it makes a mockery of the law.

James Slade
James Slade
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard E

The problem is the Stokes Croft group. They pre date all the organisations that you list. Successive Bristol Council’s have pandered to them and it’s always failed. They were given control of the Bearpit underpass and they turned into a no go zone with the help of hard left antisemities from Bristol uni. The Tesco riot was because one of them owned the local shop that had the monopoliy of local trade. This isn’t an international issue but a long standing failure to deal with an unpleasant group of hard left activist that live in one particular part of Bristol

Mark Harris
Mark Harris
1 year ago
Reply to  James Slade

Which one local shop was that out of curiosity?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

As soon as I saw the skateboards I knew it was taken over by Antifa Fascists. That is their weapon of choice, they train in its destructive use, and a skateboard is a lethal weapon used as one, yet can be carried with no problems.

Antifa appeared in 1930s Germany where they grew into an army of brutal and militant Marxist thugs whose goals were the same as the Fascist Brown Shirts, the taking of Germany by street thugs, like Mussolini and his Black Shirts – and thus their name, Anti-Fascist, not because they saw anything wrong with the brutality of the political Party of Fascists, but because they wanted their party Antifa, to be the brutal war lords as Marxists, so opposed Fascists as competition. They have not changed.

That Biden and his weird, America hating, commie-lite, bosses say Antifa is merely an idea is partly true. It is an idea of Marxist violent thuggery with the goal of destruction of decent society. But, it also exists as foot soldiers, as seen in the riots above..

Paul Blakemore
Paul Blakemore
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

And of course, when the Nazis got the upper hand the Spartacist thugs just changed their shirts and carried on with the violence they enjoyed so much…

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago

Bristol contains a few middle class areas – Clifton, Redland etc – which have more private schools than any other part of the country (apart from north London around Hampstead and Highgate, enough said). Otherwise, it’s a sea of post-war council estates, with some of the poorest-performing state schools. It also has a large black population, eg around St Paul’s. These worlds seldom, if ever, meet. If you a) despise the white working class and want nothing to do with them, b) love black people but don’t want to be too near them (but don’t you just just love all that funky graffiti) and c) generally want to polish your cool, woke and green credentials – move to Bristol.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew D
Richard E
Richard E
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Those rioters are exactly the same bunch as the BLM, ANTIFA, ECOwarriors and Colston statue vandals. It wouldn’t surprise me if over half were from outside Bristol. And, to be fair they’re all white. The same white lefties who try and use the BLM to their advantage.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
1 year ago

But according to the Labour Mayor of Bristol the rioting was the fault of people from out of town.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

These groups are both rot within, and mobile. My guess is it is both. Urban75 is a good site to keep up with the odd underworld of Anarchists and such, and chat if you like to – but naturally if you are not echo chamber will soon be banned.

James Slade
James Slade
1 year ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

He can’t admit that he gave control of the bearpit to the people doing the rioting

Margaret Donaldson
Margaret Donaldson
1 year ago

A joy to read from start to finish. It is just a pity that the violence and the nastiness involve people, especially our police, getting hurt. Stops it being funny somehow.

Richard E
Richard E
1 year ago

don’t shed a tear for the police after their actions during lockdown

Dorothy Slater
Dorothy Slater
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard E

Ten people were shot to death in liberal Boulder CO yesterday. The first one killed was a cop. Sorry Richard, but I am shedding a tear for the father of 7 who died doing his duty. I wonder how all of the “defund the police” types in Boulder feel now.

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
1 year ago

Oh well, that’s all right then?
Policeman injured, hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage.
But at least BLM, momentum and other far left and labour supporting groups can attack cops, it’s a tradition!

Carl Goulding
Carl Goulding
1 year ago

No mention of the St Paul riots in the 1980’s??

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
1 year ago

I live in Bristol and the riot that happened last night was totally disgusting! Firstly the protest should never have gone ahead due to covid rules – its interesting that there was not an organiser of this furore, as they could have been held to account and whacked with a £10,000 fine. It was a combination of the usual suspects – BLM, Extinction Rebellion, Antifa and the usual rent-a-mob. The police had no intelligence that the “protest” was going to turn violent so they were completely unprepared for what went down. I suspect that their hands-off approach during the BLM protest last year that culminated in Colston’s statue being dumped in the harbour may have given the protesters a false sense of security that the police would not intervene. In fact, this was true up to the point hundreds of “protesters” marched to the police station in the city centre and laid siege to it.

The police estimate 3000 protesters assembled on College Green and around 500 went on to lay siege to the police station. This is not a small minority – 21 police officers were injured, 2 seriously enough to still be in hospital. 12 police vehicles were attacked – including one van that was set on fire whilst officers were still inside it. A number of police station windows were smashed, missiles and fireworks were rained down on officers from those who had managed to get on the first floor roof. Some even defecated and urinated at the feet of police – disgusting animals who I hope are caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

The police sensibly decided to deal with most offenders in retrospect – they were over 20 officers down due to injuries at the hands of protesters, and had to call in reinforcements from surrounding areas. A police statement said they expect to arrest hundreds of people in the coming days – what a shame the doubled sentences contained in the forthcoming Bill for attacking emergency service personnel are not already law. All these muppets have done is give impetus to the (small) part of the Bill that deals with amending rules on protests.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nikki Hayes
Allons Enfants
Allons Enfants
1 year ago

 Like Portland in the United States

Spot on. I’ve been calling Bristol ‘the Portland of England’ since a while now.
And Scotland the Sweden of the UK.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Allons Enfants

I think of Scotland more as the Gaza Strip of the UK.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

Funny, the Mayor of Bristol said it was all “furriners” from elsewhere.

Pete Marsh
Pete Marsh
1 year ago

I thought most of the Mostly Peaceful Protesters opportunistically came from outside of Bristol?
A city that may become the Portland of England with near continuous Antifa style agitation on the summer streets. I can’t wait to see what their autonomous zones look like (and I bet some ‘revolutionaries’ are planning one right now).

Charles Levett-Scrivener
Charles Levett-Scrivener
1 year ago

Bristol was built on the slave trade; it should be demolished and replaced by a commemorative forest to offset climate change!

Possession Friend .uk
Possession Friend .uk
1 year ago

There should have much firmer and greater Policing of this event, which anyone could forsee going ‘bandy’ Avon & Somerset Police have set a too lenient tone from their Policing of the Coulson statute and all this Taking the knee Wokeness !

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
1 year ago

Always did think it was a shame when the Dukes of Beaufort stopped paying attention to Bristol.

Simon Sharp
Simon Sharp
1 year ago

In the desperate race to immediately decide what increasingly random and incoherent things mean this gets my vote: Clearly it was something inherent and irreducible about Bristolians….lol
Hell – its got more going for it than any of the other tired offerings the pundits are serving up.

eugene power
eugene power
1 year ago

Yes to Andrew D . most of our cities will have the same social ghettos, zero social contact.
In what way do they cross infect with Covid ?
local lockdown ??

Penny Gallagher
Penny Gallagher
1 year ago

You forgot the St Paul’s riots.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
1 year ago

Pulling down the statue of Colston also makes Bristol the winner of ‘Britain’s Most Ungrateful City’. Without Colston’s generosity, they would never have won any of those other prizes.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

True that – they even had a local music label called Riot City Records after they kicked off in St Pauls early 80s. That was more a classic police versus Caribbean immigrants riot as i recall. Given that Bristol is home to Ian Bone and the rump of the Class War brigade i expect there’s always a number of people willing to put their bodies on the line against the state. From what i’ve seen of UK govt over the last 12m i no longer feel so against these protestors. If they concentrate on the police and other state actors and stop with attacks on others property, statues etc they may earn a lot of respect from the vast majority who have been shafted in the pandemic.