Bristol protesters sentenced to over five years in prison last week refuse to be silenced by the courts
This article was updated on 17 November 2022 to accurately reflect the suspended sentence Fleur Moody received.
Last week, Kill the Bill demonstrators were sentenced to over five years in prison between them at Bristol Crown Court – for standing up to the police at a demonstration against the Police Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill on 21 March 2021.
Joe Parry was sentenced to 20 months in prison for violent disorder on Monday 7 November. Tyler Overall and Christopher Hind were both given prison sentences of 21 months on Friday 11 November.
Fleur Moody, was given a 8 month suspended sentence (suspended for 18 months), and ordered to do 80 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to the less serious charge of affray.
All of them were originally charged with riot, the most serious public order charge in English law, but the Crown Prosecution Service accepted guilty pleas to less serious charges.
The 21 March protest came just weeks after the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, and days after officers assaulted mourners at a vigil in her memory on Clapham Common.
All of those sentenced had experienced intense police brutality on the night. For example, Fleur Moody sustained a serious head injury, and was knocked unconscious after an officer hit her with an overarm strike from a long baton.
The Bristol protest on 21 March 2021 escalated after police in riot gear attacked demonstrators with batons, horses, and dogs. They repeatedly brought down their riot shields onto demonstrators’ heads in a practice known as ‘blading’.
The crowd fought back, and by the end of the evening the windows of the police station had been smashed, and several police vehicles had been set alight.
For six weeks after 21 March, people in Bristol held a series of further Kill The Bill demonstrations, which were met with extreme police violence – which was dubbed as “revenge policing”.
The ensuing police repression has been intense. Over 80 people have been arrested, and Avon and Somerset Police are still circulating wanted photos. 47 people have been charged. The majority of them were charged with riot, though some defendants have since been able to essentially make plea bargains to lesser offences such as violent disorder. Fleur Moody is the first person to successfully bargain her charge down to affray.
So far, 25 people have been given custodial sentences for the events of 21 March 2021, amounting to a total of almost 80 years in prison. Ryan Roberts was given the longest sentence so far – a massive 14 years.
The court system will not silence us
Those who have been arrested and brought before the courts are met with a stark decision: to plead guilty and potentially receive a shorter sentence, or to go to trial and place themselves at the whims of an unjust system where the odds are stacked against them. Those who enter guilty pleas at court are not able to put forward a defence, and the state’s narrative is taken at face value.
Now, a year after the uprising at Bridewell, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is becoming more amenable to accepting a plea to a lesser charge, making it an even more difficult decision to go to trial or make a plea to a lesser offence.
Some people have gone to trial and won: Ailsa Ruah, Kadeem Yarde, and Jasmine York were all found not guilty of riot by juries earlier this year. But for some, the risk of going to trial is too great.
At the Canary, we stand in solidarity with Joe, Fleur, Christopher, and Tyler. We want to publish accounts from the defendants of what really happened outside Bridewell police station. These statements were collected by the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) prior to their sentencing.
You can read Christopher’s account in full here.
The following are excerpts from Tyler’s defiant and passionate statement that he made before the sentencing.
Tyler Overall: sentenced to 21 months
Tyler Overall told Netpol that the protest turned into something else “when the police started being violent”. Tyler said that when he arrived at Bridewell, the crowd was sitting down outside the police station:
Tyler said that many of the demonstrators were Travellers, one of the groups who would be most affected by the planned bill (which has now become law):
The bill “was gonna make most of my friends homeless”
The Bill targets Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) people. Tyler explained how people would be affected:
“There were people everywhere being struck by police batons”
The crowd on 21st March were subjected to extreme police violence. Tyler said that he had tried to protect vulnerable people who were being attacked:
Tyler also wanted to send a message to others to say that they shouldn’t be intimidated by the police and the courts, and should keep on resisting:
We need to stand with the defendants and carry on their struggle
We can’t expect any justice from the court system. We need to stand in solidarity with our comrades experiencing repression, and not forget Joe, Tyler, and Christopher while they carry out their sentences. All of the defendants are experiencing this repression because they resisted police brutality, and we should be proud of them. It’s up to us to organise together to continue the struggle, and to defend our communities against the violence of the police.
Featured image via Netpol (with permission)
- 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 our account of what happened on 21 March and our previous reports from the trials.
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