Eight police officers have been injured after a riot erupted in Bristol overnight, sparked by a raid on a squat occupied by opponents of a newly opened Tesco Metro store.
More than 160 officers in riot gear, reinforcements from neighbouring forces and officers on horseback were involved in the operation, which began shortly after 9pm. Four people have been arrested, Avon and Somerset police said, because they posed “a real threat to the local community” in the Stokes Croft area of the city.
Petrol bombs were found, the force said. “Police arrested three people on suspicion of public order offences and another person on suspicion of threats to cause criminal damage with intent to endanger life.”
Superintendent Ian Wylie added: “There have been several significant incidents in this building during the past few days, which have caused serious concerns to police and local residents.
“The safety of the public is paramount in a situation of this kind and we took the decision to carry out a robust and swift operation, following intelligence received about the criminal intentions of those who were occupying the building.”
Clashes began when lines of officers closed off Cheltenham Road, a main route into the city centre, and protesters began throwing bottles at them.
The disturbances continued through the evening and up to 4am on Friday. Many in the local community had objected to the opening of a new Tesco store on Cheltenham Road and the shop was severely damaged in the riot. The area is close to the St Paul’s area, where some of Britain’s first inner-city riots erupted in 1980.
Assistant Chief Constable Rod Hansen said: “When 300 people congregated and a small minority from that group started small fires and throwing bottles, stones and other items at officers, we used well-rehearsed plans, which involved the use of officers from neighbouring forces to control what had become a volatile situation.”
Eight police officers and a number of protesters were injured. None of the injuries are believed to be serious.
Duncan Birmingham, an arts lecturer who lives nearby, told the Guardian he had seen lines of police in riot gear. “There were police horses and police vans from Wales,” he said. “There was a crowd who had put rubbish bins across the road and were throwing bottles.
“But there were also people going to nightclubs, dressed up in party gear. Tesco has been trashed. The windows have been put in and there’s paint everywhere. There’s been massive opposition to Tesco opening. The store had been boarded up until it opened last week. There’s another Tesco about half a mile away in each direction.”
Clare Milne, who lives nearby and has been organising the planning campaign against the store, said she had not been told why there was a police raid on the squatted building.
“Our campaign has been peaceful but we have been telling the police and the council that if they go ahead and open [the supermarket] this is what will happen. Our community is well known for having people who if they are silenced will act in a way that will ensure they will be heard.”