Another Kill the Bill demonstrator has been remanded in prison for allegedly taking part in clashes with police outside Bristol’s Bridewell Police Station in March. As the draconian makes its way to the House of Lords, it’s important we don’t forget those who are either in prison, awaiting sentence, or facing trial for resisting it.Bill
Collective self defence
On 21 March, in the aftermath of the bill’s second Commons reading, police viciously attacked those participating in a Kill the Bill demonstration outside Bristol’s Bridewell Police station. Mounted officers charged the crowd with batons flying. The crowd defended themselves, and by the end of the evening police vehicles had been set on fire.
Facing prison for resisting police violence
The defendant remanded last week – (whom we are choosing not to name) – pled not guilty to charges of riot and arson. He could remain in prison until his trial, which is not until 26 January 2022.
Four more people have pled guilty to charges relating to the confrontation outside Bridewell and are facing prison time. Three of them pled guilty to riot, which carries a ten year maximum prison sentence. They’re due to be sentenced later this month.
At least 65 people have been arrested since 21 March, and 21 people charged; the majority of them with riot. The use of the charge of riot, which is the most serious public order offence in English law, is unmistakably political.
We need to step up and support those imprisoned
I was at the demonstration on 21 March along with other writers from The Canary. And it’s clear to me that those who fought back were acting to defend their comrades from police attack. They were also part of the UK-wide movement to stop the authoritarian Police Bill, a bill that, if passed, is set to destroy the livelihoods of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and give the police even greater powers to clamp down on political dissent.
Those who have been arrested face a police force and Crown Prosecution Service that are baying for blood and emboldened by the likes of Priti Patel. Patel called the demonstrators “thugs“. Additionally, there’s a mainstream media that seems more than happy to go along with the state narrative.
Prison conditions have been made worse by the pandemic
Those remanded could spend many months in prison while they await their trial, during a time when the Coronavirus pandemic has made UK prison conditions even worse. Prisoners have been locked in cells for 23 hours a day since the pandemic, and there’s no sign of those conditions easing. The Chief Inspector of Prisons has said that prisoners are “losing hope” and that their mental health is being affected.
A report from the Independent Monitoring Board found, for example, that prison conditions at HMP Lewes were “not humane”, as prisoners were only allowed out of their cells for one hour a day.
Call for support from Ryan Roberts
Ryan Roberts – one of the two people remanded – is asking for letters of support. According to anarchist website Autonomy News:
Ryan Roberts is currently on remand in Bristol Prison. He was arrested after the confrontation with the police a the #KillTheBill demo at Bristol’s Brideswell police station. He has been charged with riot and arson.
— Autonomy_News (@autonomy_news) July 12, 2021
We need to make sure we don’t forget about those imprisoned after the confrontation with the police on 21 March. The act of resisting the Police Bill was an act of community self defence against state violence and control. Supporting our comrades who are in prison for taking part in that resistance is just another part of our self defence against repression.
Featured image via Shoal Collective
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