The Battle of #StokesCroft
This eyewitness account first appeared on Neurobonkers. At the top in bold is a comment on the events. Below is an account of what happened last night.
I was dismayed by the council and police reaction to a sustained peaceful protest that has existed against Tesco for over two years. Until this week stokes croft was the last remaining major high street in the West of England inhabited exclusively by independent establishments. Tesco moved in despite universal local disapproval in an area already surrounded by dozens of Tesco stores. Despite the palpable disquiet protests have been entirely peaceful. This was not a volatile situation until police moved in to the area in full riot dress with no explanation for kettleing stokes croft except “health and safety” and “something to do with Tescos”. As police entered “Telepathic Heights” rumour spread that more raids on houses were intended. As this was not an unlikely story due to recent dawn raids on protesters houses and confiscation of computers and books over the last (xmas) exam period the community barricaded the remaining entrances to Stokes Croft and the police responded by charging the barricades, apparently for no other reason than for a fight. This action alone provoked violence from the famously diverse, educated, peaceful, loving and pacifist community of stokes croft.
WOW. I have just returned from a week abroad to pure and utter carnage on my doorstep. Please excuse all the errors in this – it’s been about 20 hours since I slept. (I have deadlines next week, this has been literally the most ridiculous unplanned night of my life.)
Since I got back to Bristol this evening I’ve been stuck between various police roadblocks and witnessed running battles between police and mostly random people woken in the middle of the night by the sound of police sirens and choppers. The riots kicked off shortly after 10 and have continued all night.
For those not local here is the back story:
Tesco has been trying to move in to stokes croft for over 2 years and has been unable to because of huge protests. They have had to move builders in under police escort and have 24 hour roof top private security. Last weekend Tesco opened and there have been non stop protests all week.
When I arrived the police would only tell me that I could not enter stokes croft (where I live) for my “health and safety” and that it was to do with Tesco. Asking around there were various different explanations. Most people said that the police were raiding protesters houses throughout stokes croft. We could see across the police line approximately 10 riot vans and a riot squad entering the famous “Telepathic heights”. A house, like a lot in the area painted from head to toe in murals. One mural on the side of the block reads “No Tesco in stokes croft” in huge letters. Stokes Croft is known in Bristol as the cultural quarters and spans only a few thousand square feet of concentrated cultural activity not dissimilar to Camden in central London.
At something like 10PM a huge crowd landed on the front of stokes croft drawn by the lowflying helicopter with spotlight and the army of police emerging from 12+ riot vans dressed for combat. Pretty soon tension peaked as no explanation would be given for the roadblocks and there was intimidation on both sides.
I was on the junction of stokes croft high street when the police charged what was only at that point a croud (of about 100 but which quickly grew) down Ashley road pretty much all the way to the end of it over the course of a couple of hours. Due to the absolute confusion a number of people had emerged from their houses only to shortly find they were the wrong side of a road block and got roped in to what became a three hour running battle through pretty much all of the back streets coming off Ashley road croft and in to St Pauls, numerous burning barracades were errected and a huge amount of people were battered and bloodied by police for attempting to approach police lines to get home and find friends. By this point there was devastation everywhere. All junctions were blocked by overturned glass bottle dumpsters and makeshift neighbourhood roadblocks.
Eventually what seemed like the entire residence of stokes croft (and St. Pauls) emerged and pushed the police back on to stokes croft high street. For a long time there was a deadlock, people stood around and shared rumours about the reason behind the army of police that had arrived unnanounced and were terrorising the neighbourhood.
There was total confusion and stokes croft (street) was mostly cordoned off, the police started making arrests and then all hell broke loose. Missiles began coming down from Telepathic heights, the starting point of the problem and police brought out dogs to clear people from the street, quite a few got bitten. Meanwhile a lot of police vans had their tyres let out. At that point the dogs retreated and the convoy of about 10 vans that were surrounded drove at speed through the crowd clipping a large number of people on their way out. Both Tesco and telepathic heights were abandoned by the police.
At this point I decided to go home since now the police had retreated all hell was being unleashed on Tescos and hundreds of pieces of police riot gear were being handed out from the abandoned vehicles, since then the police returned and there’s been more running battles and people flooding down my street.