Marvin Rees – 2021 Statement on Violent Protest in Bristol

The statement made by Marvin Rees, the Mayor of Bristol, on 21 March 2021.

The violence and damage that have emerged from today’s protests are unacceptable and have nothing to do with the real work we are doing to tackle political, economic and social inequality.

I recognise the frustrations with the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. I have major concerns about the Bill myself, which is poorly thought-out and could impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to peaceful protest. It also misses as much as it includes, such as measures that could reduce violence against women and girls. We will raise our concerns.

Smashing buildings in our city centre, vandalising vehicles, attacking our police will do nothing to lessen the likelihood of the Bill going through. On the contrary, the lawlessness on show will be used as evidence and promote the need for the Bill.

This is a shameful day in an incredible year for Bristol. We have faced times of great confrontation particularly surrounding Black Lives Matter and the events that followed. We have had numerous protests. Our police, city representatives and I have been able to point out with pride that we have faced these moments of conflict without the physical conflict that others have experienced. Those who decided to turn today’s protest into a physical confrontation and smash our city have robbed us of this.

What they have done has more to do with self gratification than it has to do with the protection and advancement of those of us from communities most likely to be marginalised and mistreated by our political and legal systems. For five years Bristol has built homes, fed its families, prioritised mental health, recruited black and Asian magistrates, organised work experience for our young people who are least likely to be able to get it. We have addressed poverty and introduced a whole new city approach to welcome in and support refugees and asylum seekers. That’s what matters, That is what makes a difference. Smashing buildings, injuring police officers and burning cars will do nothing to support the children experiencing digital exclusion, or the women, men and children looking for refuge from domestic violence and abuse.

Speaking as someone himself – and whose brothers and sisters, along with our poorest communities – would be disproportionately likely to receive injustice, today’s actions do nothing to bring us closer to justice.