stoke’s croft riots 21st-22nd april 2011

on the thursday night (21st april) of the original disturbances i wrote this on returning home:

“the wooden sculptures as you enter stoke’s croft from the centre are made by jamie at the prsc. he also made the big wooden bear in the stoke’s croft museum and other pieces in the now boarded magpie. they were on the roof ripping his work down and up into the air as weapons, burning, as others tried to stop them. cans, bottles, petrol bombs and pink lacrid smoke. and why, did the police choose to break up the squat/party at 8pm on a busy bank holiday night – opposite the new tescos – with such force? well, the squat’s still there it seems, people are bleeding, the taxpayer has payed for all this police overtime… and bristol burns, along with jamie’s work”

that was around 2am. meanwhile, having appeared to be dissipating, the destruction continued as the new tescos was smashed to pieces by masked youth

in answering my own question, the police were apparently tipped off that the squat contained petrol bombs that were due to be used that night against tescos. a theory that, once again according to the police, was borne out on entering the property

so, in light of the facts, it appears the police had every right to be there on the night. perhaps what conspired against them was somewhat of a perfect storm…

1) local feelings of disempowerment – there has been a long, legal and, ultimately, fruitless ‘battle’ against the planning permission for the tescos express. there are clearly many issues at play here, and even more viewpoints, but to ignore the overwhelming feelings of a community (96% of local people surveyed were against tescos gaining planning permission) is dangerous

2) anti-governmental sentiment – a perception is that it is the least well off, and most vulnerable, who bear the brunt of the cuts – a view held by many in this part of bristol (and beyond). the police are seen by many as the long arm of Tory law and an easy target when presented in such high numbers. and when provoked.  it was interesting to hear, on arriving at the events of thursday night, people talking about the “convergence of political and commercial law” – some were convinced that tescos had instructed cameron / bristol city council / the police to raid this squat, and that their will had been adhered

3) extreme left – some people are just looking for a scrap. one day they / the people who share their causes might realise that violence doesn’t help further them. i would hazard a guess that 90% of bristol’s extreme political left live within 5 minutes of stoke’s croft, on foot

4) a warm bank holiday evening – of all the times to carry out this raid. 8pm on a warm bank holiday night. the streets were extremely busy. the alcohol was flowing. i suspect they chose not to go in earlier so as not to disrupt traffic. i bet they wish they had now

to understand is not to condone

personally, i was shocked and disgusted by the destruction i witnessed on the night of the 21st, and on returning the next day

what’s achieved by knocking out a policewoman’s front teeth with a beer bottle, flung blindly and cowardly from 30 yards away?

how does smashing up the independent bike store next door to the tescos help the cause – isn’t the point that supermarket monopoly is squeezing suppliers, independent retailers and homogenising our high st?

why uproot and burn our bins. you do realise that we – our parents, family and friends – are going to be paying for their replacements?

and the final insult, in ripping up, burning and using as missiles local artists – public – work. well, these people clearly don’t care about the area, bristol or its residents

so perhaps they should take themselves and there violent protests somewhere else next time

and if you don’t like tescos, don’t shop there

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7 Responses to stoke’s croft riots 21st-22nd april 2011

  1. Sean says:

    I didn’t realise they damaged the bike store or that they smashed up artwork to use as missiles. not cool.

    It’s regrettable as local people have legitimate grievances with Tesco and the council which will now be overshadowed. we shouldn’t let that happen.

    we must question the police motive and alleged intelligence used to justify the huge number of officers – some drafted from Wales, if my information is correct – on a hot evening before a long bank holiday, to arrest a handful of people.

    I’m starting to get the impression the police were up for a ruck as much as some of the local residents.

    • james says:

      hi Sean. i suspect their argument is – taking their reasons at face value – that if there were petrol bombs on the premicise, standard procedure would be to prevent the risk of passers-by getting hurt if things got nasty. or getting involved on the side of the squatters. not sure

      there were definately a large number of cardiff cops there – i have photos of their badges. i think that after things turned nasty they would have been drafted in sharpish, not necessarily before (although they may have predicted the chance of a shitstorm)

      from my first hand experiences on the night, and hopefully my open-minded viewpoint, i say that the police put up with a whole heap of abuse from a lot of people and remained in good nature. once the bottles started raining down and their colleagues were getting hurt, they turned more aggressive. personally, i think that’s understandable. i didn’t witness any police action that i perceived at the time to be brutal or OTT. i witnessed many many drunk and agressive protesters, not making a whole lot of sense. and talking to wrong person about their tescos/social gripes, anyhow

      • Bobby Smith says:

        The police weren’t blameless. We will never know how many people were injured, I recall one girl being bludgened whilst on the floor, and a bystander getting the same treatment whilst dragging her to safety.

        I also saw bottles and debris hitting bystanders.

        The police op was bodged. Armed police, full riot cops and a toxic mix of bank holiday punters and radicals was never a good idea.

        The police motive is also confusing, a squat eviction? a raid for ‘petrol bombs’? defense for tescos? who knows.

        The petrol bomb argument seems to be widely used by the media now though, but how many people have potential petrol bombs in there house? I mean its hardly specialist gear.

        • james says:

          hi Bobby. the police weren’t blamesless, for sure. there will always be bad eggs in any large organisation / group of people and i saw protestors injured by police and, like you say, ‘their own’. i agree, the true police motive and tesco influence on events is a grey area. it appears that the rumours of petrol bombing tescos that evening were rife – even appearing on facebook! like you say, who knows. but IF they did have credible info that it was going to happen that night, they would have to act. they may wish they had done it earlier in the day

  2. Amy says:

    Hi James,
    A good viewpoint, interesting to hear both sides.

    My heart goes out to all the local businesses who lost trade, suffered damage and will pay the price in a way the people causing the damage can’t consider or justify.


  3. Ben Appleby says:

    I think we all know now how complex this situation is, hence the petition calling for a full inquiry, so the lessons can be learnt. Its 30 years since the St Pauls Riots and some of the same mistakes were made this time round. Please sign the petition and encourage others to do so


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