Five Kill The Bill protesters were just sentenced to over 14 years in jail. They need our support.

Demonstrators and police at the March 21 Kill the Bill protest in Bristol
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On Friday 30 July, five Kill the Bill protesters were collectively sentenced to over 14 years in jail. Four people pleaded guilty to riot in relation to protests in Bristol on 21 March. They received sentences ranging from 3 years and 3 months to 3 years and 11 months. One person pleaded guilty to public indecency and was sentenced to five months.

In response, Bristol Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) and Bristol Defendant Solidarity (BDS) have issued a joint statement. It sets out exactly why we all need to act in solidarity with those imprisoned and those still facing charges.

Entitled We are proud of those who fought back against the police, the purpose of the statement is:
to make clear that we support those who have been sentenced today, and that we are proud of them for fighting back. We need to be ready to defend ourselves against the police, and stand with those facing repression and criminalisation.
The bill

On 21 March, people in Bristol took to the streets to protest the Police Crime and Sentencing Bill. ABC/BDS describe it as:

a bill which aims to give the police even more power to repress political dissent, and which will destroy the ways of life of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities in the UK. Those who have been struggling against the Bill across the UK are resisting the expanding imbalance of power between the state and the people, and against the further criminalisation of one of the UK’s most marginalised communities.

This oppressive piece of legislation will give the police unprecedented draconian powers to arrest protesters. Moreover, it will criminalise trespass – effectively outlawing the lives of the UK’s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

And as ABC/BDS explain:

The Policing Bill aims to further criminalise those who defend themselves against police violence, doubling the maximum prison sentence for assaulting a police officer, while the police are able to use violence and even kill with impunity. Sentences for damaging ‘national monuments’ such as statues of slave traders will be increased to a maximum 10 year prison sentence.

Read on...

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The Bill also aims to massively increase the number of people in prison in the UK. At the moment, most people are released from prison after they have served half their sentence. If the Bill is passed some defendants will have to serve two-thirds, and courts will have more powers to impose long sentences against those under the age of 18. These measures to lock up more people go hand in hand with state plans to employ 20,000 more police, to build six new mega prisons and 18,000 more prison places in the UK.

The siege of Bridewell

On 21 March, the protests were peaceful until the police started attacking the crowd. The Canary‘s Sophia Purdy-Moore reported:

I saw police in riot gear hitting protesters round the head with batons. I did also see people at the front throwing bottles at police, but the response seemed disproportionate. The power imbalance felt completely off. At one point it looked as though their horses were going to charge into the crowd of peaceful protesters. The atmosphere was horrendous. There was a real sense of unpredictability and danger in the air after what had been an uplifting day. This all happened while there were still hundreds of people in the crowd (including children), many sitting down shouting: “this is a peaceful protest” in an attempt to de-escalate the situation. It soon became clear that the police were not going to listen. I’m not sure what response they expected.

People are sick and tired of the police acting with impunity. This is what happens when the state refuses to listen to our demands for justice.

And as the ABC/BDS statement sets out:

What happened on 21st March was an outpouring of rage against the violence of the police. The crowd fought back after police officers attacked the crowd with batons and riot shields. Pepper spray was used indiscriminately, people were charged with police horses. The protesters fought back, seizing police riot shields, helmets and batons to defend themselves. By the end of the evening several police vehicles had been set on fire.

The statement also highlights the context of what happened:

The clash with the police on 21 March happened in the context of rising anger and action against the British police’s racist, classist and misogynist violence, and a government response to the coronavirus pandemic which left the UK one of the worst hit countries. The brunt of the Covid-19 crisis has been felt by working people and those seen as disposable by the government.

‘You dehumanised them’

Sentencing the defendants to a total of over 14 years in prison, the judge asserted that the police:

are all public servants, they are all human beings, what you did dehumanised them.

This reflects the language that Priti Patel used at the time of the unrest, as ABC points out:

Those who defended themselves against the police have been branded ‘thugs’ and ‘wild animals’ by both Priti Patel and the police spokesperson. The police have been out for revenge for what happened at Bridewell ever since. That revenge has come in the form of the brutality used against the Kill the Bill protests in Bristol on March 23rd and 26th. And in the use of riot charges – the most serious public order charge available in English law punishable by a maximum of ten years in prison – against those who fought back on March 21st.

But it wasn’t those protesting on the streets of Bristol who were guilty of dehumanisation – it was the police. They attacked people indiscriminately. They didn’t care about the humanity of the people they battered. During protests that took place in Bristol between 21 and 26 March, the police injured at least 62 protesters. Meanwhile, the police lied about injured officers. And they were forced to retract claims made in a press release that officers had suffered broken bones.

“They only call it violence when we fight back”

Undoubtedly, the issues go deeper than this. This isn’t just about the policing of that night or policing of protests. It’s the policing that Communities of Colour and working class communities face on a daily basis. As the ABC/BDS statement says:

Yet the police’s racist violence continues unabated. This year two Black men – Mohamud Hassan and Mouayed Bashir – both died after being detained in police custody in Cardiff and Newport. This is nothing new, there have been 1792 deaths in police custody or following contact with the police in the UK since 1990. And in Bristol, if you’re Black you are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police.

As ABC highlights:

Communities across the UK face violence at the hands of the police every day, but they only call it violence when we fight back!

No ifs, no buts. Our solidarity must be absolute.

These cases are just the beginning. Over 75 people have been arrested, and 28 of them have been charged. In addition to the five people who on 31 July woke up to their first weekend in prison, a further two people are already on remand. Over the coming year, more and more people are going to be facing trials and potentially long prison sentences following the events of that night.

There are ways to support those in prison or facing prison. ABC has a crowdfunder to raise money to support prisoners and their friends and families. People can also write to those who’ve been incarcerated.

Our solidarity with defendants must be absolute. There are no good defendants and bad defendants. There are only people targeted by the state for daring to say enough is enough and standing up against police brutality.

We should all be proud of those who fought back against the police.

Featured image via Shoal Collective

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  • Show Comments
    1. The State is the friend of property and always has been. The attempt to use the State as a means of liberation has had some success: the NHS, free universal education and so on; but there is nothing the State provides which we can’t do for ourselves. We engage in the democratic process, but they have all the media and ensure we lose. The one thing not allowed through democracy is socialism. It has been recognised since the emergence of socialist thinking that we have to free ourselves. Marx’s notion of “the dictatorship of the proletariat” has served us badly. Dictatorship of any kind is vile. And Bakunin was right, the idea leads to the people being beaten with the people’s stick. The fight against the Policing Bill has to be won. It is deliberately intended to provoke and to show the State willing to imprison anyone who stands for justice. This is the time for widespread civil disobedience. But we must not use violence. They will. We must show ourselves to be people of peace. Even in the face of provocation. We must outwit the police. We have mobiles which make us mobile. We can be present and gone before the police know where are. Speed. Mutiplicity of actions. A headless structure. No bureaucracy. No leaders. By these means we can stretch them further than they can reach. Either the Bill is defeated or freedom is.

      1. Not really “The State” means the government in power, voted there by the electorate. i.e. “us”, whether we like it or not. “We” voted to leave the EU because the EU champions the things the Tories et al abhor.
        “there is nothing the State provides which we can’t do for ourselves.” Preceded by “NHS, free universal education and so on;” see a problem with your comments there?
        Your ideas are, quite frankly, reminiscent of drunk, stoned student party ramblings. Best forgotten by the morning.

        1. Another obedient bootlicker. What he said makes total sense and you know it, but it’s in your tory troll dna to take the piss out of anything that makes your higher ups look like the cunts that they are, so you irritate and troll all day long while nobody, apart from me, takes any notice. How’s life under the bridge?

          1. Bless. Stating facts is the total antithesis of an “obedient bootlicker”, as anyone with a couple of working brain cells knows.
            Interesting that you believe stating facts is to “take the piss”.
            I irritate you because I am telling the truth and you obviously abhor that.
            You also seem not to understand simple English “because the EU champions the things the Tories et al abhor.” Do you understand what that means and also implies? Seems not.
            “that makes your higher ups”. You really have a chip on your shoulder, don’t you. Pray tell, exactly who are my “higher ups”? I would be delighted to hear so I can have a good laugh at your extremely bigoted expense.

        2. ““The State” means the government in power, voted there by the electorate. i.e. “us”” is not really true, is it? We have in the UK a first-past-the-post electoral system which effectively makes most of our votes valueless. I didn’t vote for the Tories, and I don’t recognise them as representing me.

          1. You noted I use ” “, which obviously meant I meant “us” and not us, and “We” and not we. But you are obviously far, far too intelligent to understand such simple things and their implication.

      1. Really? And yet since these protests the police themselves have been found to have used excessive force and received little but a letting off (as they also did re. the Clapham Everard vigil). We have to remember the police here are being pitted against the public; the Police Federation itself has expressed no confidence in Patel (relating to these latest conditions as well as pay). Government comes with responsibility. Instead we have government that is overbearing and corrupt; we also know full well that when their own fall foul of the rule of law little happens (or the law itself is stitched so that nothing happens with consistency. We need one rule of law for all by a professionally behaved government, not reactionary pontificating that celebrates one rule of law for some and another for others.

        1. You seem to be contradicting yourself a bit. Is it the police or the government telling them what to do? Yes, we know the government is corrupt etc., but supporting those who blatantly break the law is not the way forward, is it.
          As I frequently have to tell people, we, the electorate, choose the government so if the government is corrupt so are those electing it. Or is it that people believe the lies they are fed by the media? If so, why is that. What I see are people here supporting what they also scream blue murder about in others. The electorate sees the likes of Yaxley-Lennon and reject them. They then see others doing the same as him and also reject those people as they put them in the same category as Yaxley-Lennon. Loonies.

            1. Bless. That is pretty much the response I get from Flat Earth cultists, deniers of evolution et al.
              “We need one rule of law for all by a professionally behaved government, not reactionary pontificating that celebrates one rule of law for some and another for others.” Which is what I have been saying, dumbo. But you and your ilk want one rule for you and another for everyone else but you are too bigoted to realise it.

            2. Bless. I think we both know you have some growing up to do, Verendum. Your naive, over simplistic quasi-intellectual non-arguments about democracy wouldn’t pass muster in a 6th Form debating society. The propensity to slide into rudeness of course lessens your case. I feel confident you’ll learn as you get older, but you will have to take a long, hard look in the mirror first.

            3. 5.21am, 2.59am & 2.19am? I’m beginning to feel concern for your health and your various nocturnal discharges. See a doctor sooner rather than later, I’d say, Verendun.

            4. Cool story bro. “5.21am, 2.59am & 2.19am? … nocturnal discharges.” Pray tell, exactly where I am, what my job is and what time it is, Einstein?

            5. At 8.11, I guess you’re tired after a long night and in your garage, sitting bleary eyed at your screen. I’ll go for Personal assistant to Jo Swinson. I’m praying for you, no worries.

            6. Albert (but not Bert). Please. I insist.

              At 1.41am, I guess you’re in your garage, sitting bleary eyed at your screen. I’m sticking with Personal assistant to Jo Swinson and I’m still praying for you.

            7. Wrong yet again. Pray tell, exactly where I am, what my job is and what time it is, Einstein?
              For starters, when I refer to time in the context it means local time where I am.
              Also exactly means exactly, not a guess from an apparently bigoted ignoramus.
              Further, praying is only for the deluded.

            8. Thanks, but if you don’t know where you are or what your job is, it sounds like you have problems. What I think we know is that your locality allows you to use a back garage with a knocked-off computer in it and tweet at strange times. Can you find an app to help you find your whereabouts?

      2. Wow. How utterly servile are you. There’s 17.4m obsequious little englander morons in this country and you are clearly one of them. A huge part of the problem.

        And “Pond life without the intelligence”? That makes absolutely no fucking sense.

        1. Talking about servile, which of your masters is telling you what to post, as you seem to have little experience or knowledge so someones is quite obviously pulling your strings.
          ““Pond life without the intelligence”? That makes absolutely no fucking sense.” Oh but it does, other than to the brain dead.

          1. For the last 10+ years I’ve watched your sick tory masters turn a decent and civilised country into a fascist shithole full of racists and hateful, idiotic enablers such as yourself. That makes me more experienced and knowledgeable than I care to be.

            And the definition of pond life is someone who is worthless, stupid, insignificant etc., so “Pond life without the intelligence” makes absolutely no fucking sense, like I said.

            Oh, and your Tommy Robinson fixation is more than a bit creepy.

            1. I don’t have a fixation with Yaxley-Lennon, I simply reference him to show the hypocrisy of you and your puppet masters.
              “And the definition of pond life is someone who is worthless, stupid, insignificant etc., so “Pond life without the intelligence” makes absolutely no fucking sense, like I said.” No, you are Pond Life, being worthless, stupid and insignificant but still have some minimal intelligence, as you seen proud in proving. Congratulations.
              Just the last “10+ years”? I have been watching ever since 1970, before which the Tories had been reasonably moderate for quite a while. Anyone with any knowledge if the UK and its politics would know that, so thanks for continuing to prove your lack of anything worthwhile.

    2. I love when people think legislation is to protect the public or at least what they perceive as law abiding society which ofc is a false narrative because I’m yet to meet anyone on this god forsaken planet not to have committed a crime ( think about it ) ……..

      Dianesrightshoe I live in a very real world where I have seen multiple times offending rapist’s and pedophiles walk after less than 5 years and that’s the heavy sentences !!!!

      This bill passes and I feel so sorry for the handful of legit police woman and men because there are some and they will not only be targeted by the legions that hit the streets they genuinely try to protect but also the mass warped thinking soldiers in black the gov are creating …………. UK has no humanity left pretty much proven by lovely Dianesrightshoes statement !!!!!!

      1. So you support Yaxley-Lennon, Nick Griffin, Paul Golding, Ulster loyalists et al one can only assume.
        “I’m yet to meet anyone on this god forsaken planet not to have committed a crime ( think about it )” Depends what you term a crime, doesn’t it. Playing semantics is not really clever in the context is it,
        You’d do well as an Evangelical in the USA, you’ve missed your vocation.
        As for humanity, you don’t seem to have much.

      2. “I have seen multiple times offending rapist’s and pedophiles walk after less than 5 years and that’s the heavy sentences”

        I defy you to provide even a single example. We have mandatory sentencing for sexual offences in the UK and judges, magistrates and (in Scotland) sheriffs routinely hand down what they describe as exemplary – i.e. longer than required – sentences. All sexual offenders are placed on the sex offenders register; many have Sexual Harm Prevention Orders placed on them, restricting their activities for the rest of the lives; and they are closely monitored by the police’s Public Protection Unit. Offenders in most cases also lose their jobs, their homes, their wealth and all of their personal relationships. Is that enough for you?

        1. i have seen a couple of Colin Ferguson’s posts elsewhere and he? seems a bit weird, putting it politely.
          I mean “I feel so sorry for the handful of legit police woman and men because there are some” can only come from someone who has totally lost the plot. The overwhelmingly vast majority in the UK are “legit”. The USA is a different matter, as are many other countries, but that is a separate issue.

    3. My my, the trolls are out on this one in force. What sad lives they must lead. It’s a shame we no longer have public floggings and executions, it would add purpose to their lives which they wouldn’t have to seek here.

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