On Sunday, 21st March 2021, the police in Bristol responded to protests with horrific violence. We condemn both the police’s use of violence and brutality towards protesters as well as anyone that has attempted to delegitimise the #KillTheBill protests by denouncing violent protests.
SDS applauds and are in solidarity with all those who protested this weekend to live a life free from state violence. We will not be distracted by accusations of violent protesters when it is the state, poverty, underfunded healthcare, the police, detention centres, and prisons that are the most violent systems in place. These two forms of violence are incomparable, and we should not pretend that they are anything but. This is a gross oversimplification that lacks the understanding of the powers of the state.
The anger that the protesters showed in the streets this weekend was reflective of a larger anger in the UK that is boiling over at the betrayal of the system. Day by day, people are realising, as police brutality continues, the economy gets worse; community spaces continue to disappear; the government continues to put Black and Brown people into cages for profit; and homelessness gets worse and worse, that this system is failing us because it was not made for us.
The police’s violence towards people last night is not unique and highlights a disturbing pattern of behaviour of manhandling, brutalising and abusing their power in not just protest situations but day-to-day policing. Heavy surveillance has been normalised, and the hostile environment is deeply embedded in institutions we are meant to trust and rely on. The government has enacted numerous policies through Immigration Acts and Counter-Terrorism laws over the last two decades that have enabled the border and the police to intrude our homes, our schools, health care services and workplaces in the guise of public safety. In such a system, we can not afford for the police powers to be expanded upon as proposed by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill.
SDS refuses to partake in this arbitrary division of any form of resistance as either ‘peaceful’ (those deserving to be heard) or ‘violent’ (those that are deemed illegitimate). Much of the commentary on denouncing the ‘violence’ at the protest in Bristol appears to be referring to the damage to police property. In the context of decades of police violence and misuse of power, from racist stop and search practises, sexual violence, to deaths in custody, it is inappropriate and misleading to equate this with property damage. When the government attempts to tear away our right to peaceful protest, the smashing of police windows is a legitimate response. The government looks at us with disdain – do they expect us to sit idly by? The #KillTheBill movement demands that the police be stripped of the power that we have seen them abuse time and again. Policing is the crisis, not the resistance against it.
There is no justice in borders, prisons or policing. Only the full abolition of these systems will bring us the justice and the safety that we need. When we say no justice, no peace, we mean no justice, no peace.