UNITED KINGDOM: Figures reveal scale of Bristol protesters injured by police

Report by Netpol, published on 14 April 2021, available here.

At least 62 people injured by police violence in Bristol, new figures reveal. With significant misreporting from the media Bristol #KillTheBill protests, including false reports from Avon and Somerset police that officers had received injuries including broken bones, Bristol Defendant Solidarity have been recording instances of police violence and injuries sustained by people attending the protests in March. Here is their report on injuries sustained as a result of police violence.

If you have been injured at one of the Bristol #KillTheBill protests and want to contact the group, you can reach them at injurysupportbristol[at]protonmail.com.

Injuries to Protesters following police violence during Bristol ‘Kill the Bill’ protests 21=26 March

Following numerous reports from protesters, legal observers, local journalists and street medics of police violence against peaceful, at times seated, protesters during Kill the Bill protests in Bristol between21=26 March, Bristol Defendant Solidarity began efforts to monitor injuries.

An email address was set up to allow medics and legal observers to report injuries witnessed and/or tended to during and after protests, and for protesters to self-report sustained injuries. The email address was publicised on social media in the following days.

The following summary has been compiled from the emails received to date, which include medical reports, legal observer reports and numerous self-report emails from protesters themselves. These emails detail reported or self-reported injuries to 62 people between 21=26 March. This includes 7 injuries that required treatment in hospital and 22 head injuries. A number of self-reported injuries were detailed alongside photographic evidence of the wounds sustained.

The list compiled from these emails is not in any sense a complete tally of injuries to protesters and is likely to be an underestimate, but it gives an impression of the extent and kinds of brutal assault experienced by protesters as a result of police violence. Medics and legal observers reporting injuries did not witness all injuries, but only those in their direct vicinity, or those which they themselves treated. We do not know how many protesters either did not hear about the injury reporting email address or did not feel comfortable reporting incidences of police violence against them to an anonymous email address.

There have since been news reports of local hospitals tending to numerous victims of police violence on the nights of the protests between 21=26 March. There have not yet been any formal attempt to collect data from local hospitals (which would also give us further information on the severity and kinds of injuries to protesters who attended A&E) on the nights of the protests, to get a fuller picture of the numbers dealt with in hospital. This information would be useful and is likely available on registers of emergency care procedures performed in A&E from the nights of the protests, that related to injuries incurred to protesters (where this information is available/was disclosed). This again is likely to be an underestimate, as multiple injured people who were advised by first aiders at the scene to seek hospital treatment said they were too scared to go to hospital for fear of police reprisals.

Reports received to the BDS email address indicate the following injuries (with some of the 62 people for whom injuries were reported/who self-reported injuries, sustaining more than one injury):

  • 20 people were hit by batons
  • 11 were hit by shields
  • 13 were hit by shields/batons
  • 3 were kicked, punched or physically assaulted by police hands/bodies
  • 7 were bitten by police dogs
  • 12 were pepper sprayed
  • 5 injuries occurred in ways that are unclear

This list is likely to change as more people come forward. There are legal support reports of a man who sustained a broken jaw as a result of police violence, that has not been reported through the email reporting system, for instance. The more public the efforts to take seriously and respond to police violence against protesters at these protests, and the more widely publicised the reporting mechanisms, the more victims are likely to feel safe enough to come forward.