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Coronavirus (COVID-19): the policing response and what you need to know

Clifton Suspension Bridge to close ahead of protest

A picture of the Clifton Suspension Bridge in the daytime

The Clifton Suspension Bridge will be closed to all vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists from midnight tonight (Thursday 27 August) to protect public safety ahead of a planned protest starting tomorrow.

Extinction Rebellion will be carrying out protest activity in Bristol from Friday until Bank Holiday Monday and have said they intend to focus activity at the bridge tomorrow (Friday 28 August).

We’ve been liaising with the organisers to understand their intentions and to emphasise the absolute importance of protecting public health amid the ongoing pandemic and ensure any protest activity adheres to the current legislation and restrictions.

Acting Chief Inspector Rob Cheeseman said: “Public safety will always be our top priority and following several multi-agency meetings, a joint decision has been made to close the Clifton Suspension Bridge from midnight tonight.

“We cannot risk any protest activity impacting on the bridge which is currently used by around 10,000 to 12,000 vehicles every day, in addition to pedestrians and cyclists.

“We know from experience that Extinction Rebellion have engaged in disruptive tactics which have not been disclosed in advance to our liaison officers and we have to take all necessary steps to mitigate the impact this action could have on the safety of the public using the bridge.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly and the closure will be reviewed continuously and the bridge will be re-opened when it is safe to do so. This means the closure could be in place until 6am Tuesday morning at the latest.

“We’ve repeatedly stressed to the protest organisers that while the right to hold peaceful protests are a cornerstone of our society, the spread of coronavirus and the risk of a second wave poses a clear threat to public health and that’s why legislation and restrictions remain in place. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve sought to engage with people to explain the legislation and encourage them to comply with it, using enforcement as a last resort. We will continue with this approach over the bank holiday weekend, but will not hesitate to use the legislation available to us should we need to.”

Christina Gray, Director of Public Health at Bristol City Council, said: “I urge anyone thinking about joining this weekend’s Extinction Rebellion protest to take all necessary precautions to limit the risk of spreading the virus. The protest organisers have assured us that they are putting in place measures to promote social distancing and good hygiene. I implore everyone taking part to heed these measures and to take your own precautions; do not share a car with someone not in your household, wear face coverings, ensure you’re washing or sanitising your hands regularly and keep plenty of distance between yourselves and others. Please also limit your association with anyone in at risk groups, for example those who are older or have health conditions, during and after the event.

“Likewise, to anyone thinking of travelling from outside Bristol to join the protest I urge you not to. Whilst our case numbers remain relatively low we are experiencing a rise in weekly cases and must ask everyone to take responsibility for their actions to protect our city’s health. It is vital that we can support our children to return to school and keep our businesses open. These are behaviours, rules and messages for everyone in Bristol, or visiting Bristol.”

Trish Johnson, Bridge Master, Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust, said: “We’re following the advice of the police and the local authorities and will be closing the bridge to vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians from midnight tonight. We’d like to apologise to all our users for the inconvenience this will cause them.”

As a result of the bridge closure, traffic on the North Somerset side of the bridge will be diverted via the A369 Rownham Hill. Diversion signs will be in place.

In addition, due to protest activity around Prince Street Bridge in Bristol city centre, the bridge will be closed to traffic over the bank holiday weekend, but will be open to pedestrians, cyclists and boat traffic.