Court watches footage of police brutality against Kill the Bill demonstrators

Protesters decorate riot shields, to symbolise self defence - At the trial of Ryan Roberts

Content warning – this article contains descriptions of police violence

The trial of Indigo Bond is ongoing at Bristol Crown Court. Indigo was charged with riot after confrontations between police and protesters outside Bristol’s Bridewell police station last year. She was just 19 years old at the time.

Thousands of demonstrators came out on 21 March 2021, in a show of force against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill, which became law last week. The demonstration began at a memorial for Sarah Everard, a woman who had been raped and murdered by a serving police officer just weeks beforehand. The crowd fought back after it was met with escalating violence from riot police outside Bridewell station. The police attacked with dogs, horses, riot shields, and batons

By the end of the night, police vehicles had been set alight, and the ground floor windows of the police station had been smashed.

Since then 85 people have been arrested, and 15 people have been sentenced to prison. The longest sentence imposed so far is 14 years. A massive support campaign has been launched in solidarity with the defendants, with over £50k raised by crowdfunders so far.

Indigo is charged with pushing and kicking at police officers, and throwing a piece of wood and a small bottle at officers. She said in evidence that she acted defensively because she was “scared”, and that she was trying to “create space” between her and the riot police, and to “push them back”.

Jury watches footage of police violence

On the second day of the trial, the defence showed a video compilation which contained clips of the police violence on 21 March. It was sourced from material disclosed to Indigo’s defence solicitors by Avon and Somerset Police, which includes footage captured by the police’s own body-worn cameras, as well as police evidence gatherers. The compilation also includes video clips from a news agency and members of the public.

Read on...

The first significant incident starts just after police had donned riot gear outside the Old Fire Station near Bridewell. Police had moved in after protesters had graffitied a police vehicle and begun to rock it from side to side. The jury was shown footage of officers advancing on members of the crowd with batons raised, and shoving a press photographer with full force. The man falls back, and stumbles into the people behind him as Indigo stands nearby.

Seconds later, the same officer advances on a woman. He has his baton raised high over his shoulder. She uses a placard pole to defend herself as he strikes her repeatedly.

Police Constable Ewan Caulder – the officer who is seen to shove the photographer – denied to defence barrister Russell Fraser that he had lost his “composure”. Fraser questioned him about why he had pushed the photographer, asking:

It wasn’t because he had a long lens pointing at you and you didn’t like it?

Caulder denied this. However, Fraser said to him:

within a short time of you arriving you have used your PAVA pepper spray, you have pushed a photographer and used your baton several times 

Caulder conceded that he had.

Later on, the same photographer is seen being manhandled by police, as they call him a “fucking prick”.

Police violence escalates

The video goes on to show officers push and shove protesters who are standing in the street near Bridewell station.

The police form a cordon across the road by the Old Fire Station and a standoff ensues. The video shows officers hitting protesters repeatedly with baton strikes, and with the edges of their riot shields.

One clip shows an officer raising his rectangular shield above his head and bringing it down on a protester.

A little later, the defence show a protester on the ground. Fraser cross examined Brian Brady – the officer in the case – about what happened. Fraser asked:

did you notice that there was a male who was on the ground?

Brady replied

it does appear on initial viewing that he was kicked, I can’t see if it connects

Fraser persisted:

In fact two officers run up and kick him

To which Brady eventually agreed.

The compilation includes a section of footage which was taken by one of the protesters at the front of the cordon. A woman’s panicked voice says:

no, don’t hit, stop…

stop hitting her…

no, no, no, no, no, stop, stop.

Woman knocked unconscious

As the evening goes on, the footage shows officers repeatedly striking protesters with rectangular riot shields.

Earlier in the case, the jury was told that police guidelines about the use of batons say that baton strikes should be at forty-five degree angles. They should also avoid sensitive areas like the head, groin and sternum. However, the video evidence clearly shows police using overarm strikes with long batons. Shortly after some of these blows take place, a female protester is carried behind the police line, accompanied by shouts of “you’ve knocked her out”. Later on, the same woman is pictured being treated inside the police station by a member of the public. She has a head wound and is screaming – she appears to have been pepper sprayed. A volunteer medic says to a police officer:

this is not ok, this is really not ok what you’re doing

Footage from the Ruptly news agency shows police reinforcements approaching a little later. As the line of police approaches, officers knock two people to the ground, repeatedly hitting them with riot shields, and kicking them. The footage can be viewed here from about six minutes and 20 seconds in (although it currently needs to be viewed via a VPN, due to UK restrictions on Russian state connected news agencies).

Indigo says the police were using “unlawful violence”

Indigo told the court that she comes from a Traveller background, and went to the demonstration because she “didn’t agree with the bill because of its effects” on Travellers. She said:

I come from a travelling background, my grandad was a Traveller and my dad too

Indigo also said that she went out to demonstrate because she was “upset” about the murder of Sarah Everard

“Get them back”

Indigo explained that she had filmed the police’s actions on her mobile phone in case anything happened to the people around her. Indigo described the police moving in:

I remember the police pushing, the police pushed straight into the people who were closest to them

Indigo showed photographs of injuries she had received from police batons, and told the court that she had been pepper sprayed.

When asked by David Scutt – the prosecution barrister – why, if she was scared, she hadn’t just left and gone home, Indigo replied:

I thought it was important to help people who were being hit worse than me.

The court had seen a short compilation of police clips in which Indigo can be seen kicking out at officers. She explained that she wanted:

to get them back, because I had seen them brutally hitting people next to me.

Scutt asked Indigo about her guilty plea to a less serious public order charge. He said:

 you accepted that you used or threatened unlawful violence. 

Indigo replied:

I also believe that the police used or threatened unlawful violence. 

Indigo told Fraser that the case had been hanging over her head for the past year. She said it had been “in the back of [her] mind” the whole time.

Indigo’s photograph was circulated in the media after police identified her as having been at the protest. As a result, Indigo was asked not to come back to college, and she lost out on studying her course in Circus and Physical Theatre, something which she “loved”.

The case continues. The court is expected to hear speeches from the defence and prosecution barristers on Monday 9 May. The jury is expected to go out to decide its verdict on Monday.

Meanwhile, Kadeem Yarde – who was also arrested on March 21 – is midway through his own trial for ‘riot’ in another courtroom in the same building. His verdict is also expected next week.

Whatever the outcome of the court case, the Bristol riot defendants – as well those who have already been imprisoned – need our support. It’s important that we don’t forget those who are experiencing repression, and that we continue their fight through our solidarity.

Featured image via Eliza Egret

Get involved

  • Donate to the Kill the Bill prisoner support fund, and write to the Kill the Bill prisoners.
  • Listen to this podcast about the Kill the Bill cases and what people are doing in Bristol to support the defendants.
  • Read The Canary‘s previous coverage of the Bristol ‘riot’ cases, and this article about the first day of Indigo’s trial

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