Boris Johnson condemns 'disgraceful' attacks on police after protest in Bristol turns violent

British PM Boris Johnson.
British PM Boris Johnson. Photo credit: Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has strongly criticised "disgraceful attacks" on police officers in Bristol, western England, after protests against a new policing bill turned violent, resulting in 10 arrests.

Local police said a demonstration involving more than 1000 people on Friday afternoon (local time) had been largely peaceful, but a minority had shown hostility towards officers later in the evening.

"Last night saw disgraceful attacks against police officers in Bristol. Our officers should not have to face having bricks, bottles and fireworks being thrown at them by a mob intent on violence and causing damage to property," Johnson said in a tweet on Saturday (local time).

"The police and the city have my full support."

Officers in riot gear beat back crowds of protesters with shields and batons, Reuters pictures and TV showed.

Bristol has been a centre of protests against a government bill going through parliament that would give police new powers. Last Sunday, two officers were seriously injured and at least two police vehicles were set on fire in the city after a previous peaceful protest also turned violent.

Large protests are not allowed due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, but the government's Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill would give police new powers to impose time and noise limits on street demonstrations, angering activists.

Scrutiny of police tactics has increased following a heavy-handed response to a London vigil for murder victim Sarah Everard.

Police faced further criticism after a journalist for the Daily Mirror newspaper on Friday filmed a policeman hitting him as he shouted, "What are you doing? I'm press".

In a tweet along with the video, journalist Matthew Dresch said: "Police assaulted me at the Bristol protest even though I told them I was from the press. I was respectfully observing what was happening and posed no threat to any of the officers."

Police said they were aware of the video and were making efforts to contact the journalist.