A demonstration was held outside Bristol Crown Court on Friday 12 May to support Bristol’s Kill the Bill (KTB) defendants. Several appeared for sentencing for their role in the city’s KTB uprising on 21 March 2021.
Daniel Ellis had pleaded guilty to riot, and to arson against a police vehicle. Judge Patrick sentenced him to four and a half years in prison.
Patrick has become infamous in Bristol for handing out harsh prison sentences to the Kill the Bill defendants. He has presided over most of the cases arising from the 2021 Bridewell uprising. In total, Bristol Crown Court has sentenced the rebels of Bridewell to over 110 years in prison.
The judge also gave demonstrators Carmen Fitchett and Leah Brenchley suspended prison sentences. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had initially charged Carmen and Leah with riot too. However, they were able to bargain their charges down to much less serious offences. Patrick sentenced Carmen for affray, and Leah for criminal damage and assaulting an emergency worker.
All of the defendants have had to wait over two years for the court to conclude their cases. Moreover, the CPS initially charged them all with more serious offences. It then forced them to play a waiting game until it finally offered a plea bargain.
What happened at Bridewell, Bristol?
On 21 March 2021, thousands came out to demonstrate against the draconian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act, which was then a bill making its way through parliament. The protest came just a week after the brutal rape and murder of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens, a serving police officer. Only a few days before the Bristol protest, images of the police brutalising the women holding a vigil for Sarah on Clapham Common had gone viral.
On top of this, in the months leading up to the 21 March 2021 uprising, Mouayed Bashir and Mohamud Mohammed Hassan had died in – or shortly after being in – police custody in the nearby Welsh cities of Newport and Cardiff.
When protesters reached Bristol’s Bridewell police station, the cops attacked them. Riot police struck protesters with batons and used their shields as weapons. Video footage shows several officers hitting demonstrators on the head with their shields. The police also deployed dogs and horses against the crowd.
However, the demonstrators defended themselves and each other, and the police violence triggered the protest’s escalation into an anti-police uprising. The crowd surged forward and smashed the windows of Bridewell. Protesters set several police vehicles alight.
Solidarity with the Kill the Bill rebels
Supporters packed Bristol Crown Court on Friday 12 May. Bristol Defendant Solidarity (BDS), a solidarity group organising support for the KTB defendants, tweeted this message in support of those being sentenced:
We are full of rage at the cops, the CPS and the Judges. They have terrorised and traumatised people with their repressive campaign over the last two years. Many people’s lives have been dominated by this before they even got sentenced.
We are full of rage at the impunity of the cops in this so-called justice system. We have not forgotten the violence they dished out that day.
But most of all we are full of love and amazement at the unfaltering support for everyone going through this. Big up to everyone who came to court today and everyone supporting people behind the scenes. It is our unified strength that keeps us going and keeps us fighting!
Where is the outrage?
Campaign group Justice for Bristol Protesters (JBP) told the Canary that they were “distraught” at the sentences. A JBP spokesperson said:
They’re still being made examples of even as the repressive legislation they were fighting against is being used to silence protesters and arrest innocent bystanders.
Another JBP member, a parent of one of those imprisoned, told the Canary:
more young people found themselves in front of the notoriously harsh judge who has reserved all cases connected with the KTB incident for himself.
These young people have suffered a cruel wait and been unable to get on with their lives. The effects of this on their mental health is devastating and unacceptable.
Why is there no mainstream media coverage and why is there little or no outrage?
A full investigation should be carried out, and a review of the inconsistent charges and outcomes is urgently required as young people are sitting in prison.
The rebels of Bridewell were defending themselves and their comrades against a vicious attack by the police. They are paying a high price for their defiance and bravery. It’s important not to forget them, and to show our solidarity.
People in Bristol are organising support for those sentenced, and money is being sent in to pay for basic needs in prison. Click here to find out how to write to the people in prison, or donate to their crowdfunder here.
Featured image via Bristol Anti-Repression Campaign
- Donate to the Kill the Bill prisoner support fund, and write to the Kill the Bill prisoners.
- Listen to this podcast about the 21 March, and what people are doing in Bristol to support the Kill the Bill defendants.
- Read the Canary‘s account of what happened on 21 March and our previous reports from the trials.
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