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