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

Peaceful protests take place in Bath, Bristol and Taunton

Peaceful protests took place in a number of locations across the Avon and Somerset area yesterday (3 April).

The largest demonstration was in Bristol and was attended by around 1,500 people.

Other much smaller events took place in Bath and Taunton.

A number of those who attended the Bristol protest chose to remain in the city centre after the main event had concluded at around 7.30pm.

At approximately 10.15pm around 100 protestors began marching through the city centre for a second time.

They briefly occupied both carriageways of the M32 motorway before turning back when officers blocked them advancing beyond Junction 3.

Protestors briefly blocked the M32
Protestors briefly blocked the M32

Then, at around midnight, a Section 35 Dispersal Order was implemented requiring people to leave the city centre. This followed several instances of minor disorder between protestors.

Seven people were subsequently arrested.

Superintendent Mark Runacres said: “We’d like to thank those who worked with us to ensure yesterday’s main events were peaceful.

“In Bristol in particular we saw an increasing number of protestors engaging with our police liaison officers which we’re grateful for.”

Supt Runacres added: “Policing protests is always difficult in that we have to balance the rights of protestors with other members of the public.

“At times a relatively small group of people did cause significant disruption to motorists as they marched through Bristol and onto the motorway and I understand the frustration that would’ve caused.

“Our priority is always the safety of the public and like all incidents, we evaluated every action the protestors took based on the threat, harm and risk they posed to themselves and to others.

“Dispersing protestors while they were on a live carriageway presented an unacceptable risk and the safest thing to do was to allow the protest to run its course.

“At around midnight there were several altercations between the small number of people who remained in the city centre. We never tolerate violence and so we made the decision to move people on.

“It’s disappointing that once again there were those who refused to listen to our requests to leave and that we had to make arrests.

“One of the reasons why we continue to urge protest organisers to contact us prior to their event is so we can discuss how we can ensure it takes place safely and with as little disruption to the wider public as possible.

“We also can’t forget that COVID-19 hasn’t gone away and restrictions remain in place. We’d rather people chose to express themselves in ways other than gathering in large numbers but if they do, we’d encourage them to work with us so together we can minimise the risk of spreading the virus.”