Arrests, booze and bikers: Here’s what happened at the All Lives Matter protest in Bristol
They claim they are “not far right”
Less than a week after the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol City Centre was torn down by protesters, around 400 football fans, bikers, veterans, and other white men gathered for an All Lives Matter protest to “protect the cenotaph”.
It could’ve been a rugby match, with chants of “England” ringing out, accompanied by God Save The Queen, and Swing Lo’ Sweet Chariot.
The protesters started gathering from 11am in front of the cenotaph, many with bags of beer and cider. The atmosphere was jovial at the start, with groups enjoying the sunshine. At 12pm, bikers showed up in support of those demonstrating, and they were mingling with the crowds after a photo op.
However, not a single protester wanted to speak to this outlet about why they were there.
At 12:43pm, the peace was broken by two protesters who took to putting the Black Lives Matter signs into bin bags, shouting “clean our streets”. They then shouted at the police officers present, aggrieved that they did not prevent the Colston statue from being pulled down.
A scuffle ensued as protesters surged forward, and some intoxicated men attempted to prevent both myself and the BBC reporter who was present from capturing video. My phone was knocked out of my hand, I was shoved, and he shouted “you’re a left wing prick. Fuck off.” A brilliant police officer stopped him from going further.
(ABOVE: Protesters put the Black Lives Matter signs in a bin bag. The tension is diffused by a veteran shortly afterwards.)
As tensions rose, police with riot gear separated protesters. By 1pm, tensions were high as protesters were shouting about “left wing media scum”, and called Black Lives Matter protesters “racists”.
“They call us far right, well then we’re fucking acting like far right.” Despite holding signs saying “not far right”.
By 2:15pm, tensions had risen again, with protesters trashing the bag which contained the Black Lives Matter signs removed from the Colston plinth.
At this point, two Black Lives Matter protesters had gone to confront the crowds, leading to the police dragging them away as crowds of All Lives Matter protesters converged on them. The police then moved in to prevent the angry mob from following the protesters, and crowds of onlookers ran away as police charged in to form a line.
By 2:22pm, police began enforcing a “hard cordon” for the first time, with nobody allowed near the Colston Plinth, and passers-by redirected across the road from protesters.
As the police were building their lines, All Lives Matter men shouted “you’re a disgrace to your country”, to which the Black Lives Matter protesters responded “Churchill was a paedo”.
Officers pushed back onlookers and counter-protesters to avoid the situation worsening. At this point, the air was thick with tension as officers stopped discussing and negotiating, and held the line firmly.
Officers parked vans to block line of sight between the 2 sides, and officers on horses rode through in a show of force to move protesters out of the way. They blocked Black Lives Matter protesters from accessing the Colston plinth, with groups being kept totally separate.
By 3pm the bikers had left, leaving a significantly reduced crowd around the Cenotaph.
At 3:30pm crowds surged around the Colston plinth, where a man stood on top holding the Union Jack flag, leading the mob in chants of “England” and other slogans, while confronting the police holding the line.
By 3:38pm, lines of police had pushed the mob back, leaving the Colston plinth inaccessible from both sides.
The area around the Cenotaph and the Colston plinth became completely blocked off by police, who moved Black Lives Matter protesters and onlookers back 100m, completely out of sight of those around the Cenotaph.
At 4:45pm, two 16 year old girls, a 14 year old boy and other protesters holding signs were allegedly assaulted by All Lives Matter protesters. The alleged perpetrators were pursued by at least 15 police officers and were detained in front of the Bristol Hippodrome.
They were described as “white, older men who had been drinking”. The protesters claim they were just standing there: “We weren’t even chanting, to keep the peace, but it shouldn’t matter.”
The 14 year old said: “They say ‘we’re not racist, we’re not the far right’ by being typically racist.”
By the end of the next hour, tensions had dissipated. Protesters remain in the City Centre, but by 5pm the large majority had been cleared out by the rain.
The All Lives Matter protesters were mainly white men over 30. There were few women, and no black/ BAME people either.
This was small compared to the ten thousand people out in Bristol last weekend for Black Lives Matter. These protesters were far outnumbered by the police, and had the police not been there, it would have certainly turned violent.
Another day of free speech and controversy in Bristol. This is not stopping anytime soon.