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Officers injured as "Kill the Bill" protest against bid to boost U.K. police powers turns violent

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London — Protests continued across the U.K. over the weekend against a proposed law that would increase police powers. Clashes between some demonstrators and police in the city of Bristol left 20 officers injured, according to the region's police force.

Videos from Bristol showed multiple police vans on fire, and Avon and Somerset chief constable Andy Marsh told Britain's Guardian newspaper that some officers had been trapped in a building as people shot fireworks and other projectiles at them, damaging the protective glass on the front of the building. Some demonstrators reportedly threw stones at officers, and one officer suffered a punctured lung after being stomped on. Marsh told The Guardian that someone defecated on the ground in front of police.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that initial claims by the Somerset and Avon police stating that officers had suffered broken bones was later retracted. Four days after the violent clashes, the police issued an "update" with a statement on the force's Twitter account saying that while "initial information suggested two officers had broken bones. Thankfully the injuries – while still serious – did not involve fractures. We believed the information had been verified but it had not, and while we apologise for that there was no intention to mislead."  The police statement did not issue any further clarification on the injuries sustained by officers.

At least seven people were arrested.

Kill the Bill protest
A police van burns outside Bridewell Police Station in Bristol, England, amid protests against the Government's controversial Police and Crime Bill, March 21, 2021. Andrew Matthews/PA/Getty

"Let's be clear, the wanton violence and destruction had nothing to do with protest — it was committed by those looking for an excuse to commit disorder," Marsh said in a statement. "The scenes we witnessed yesterday were shameful and I know will be condemned by the whole city."

The protesters chanted "kill the bill," which has become a common refrain at demonstrations across the U.K. against the "Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill," which is currently making its way through Parliament. If approved, the legislation would, among other things, give law enforcement increased powers to shut down peaceful protests across the country. 

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It has generated mounting criticism in the wake of London police's aggressive response to a vigil in honor of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman who was killed by an off-duty police officer while walking home earlier this month.

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said the violence was counterproductive and could be "used as evidence and promote the need for the bill."

"I am from communities who are disproportionately likely to be on the receiving end of the criminal justice system and receive unfair treatment," he told the BBC. "What they have done has done nothing to make me, and people like me, safer. This was selfish self-indulgence, self-centred violence."

Rachel Legg, a resident who witnessed Sunday night's protests in Bristol, told The Guardian that she believed there was more to understand about the motivations behind the violence.

"I'm not surprised. They all seemed to be in their 20s. That is an angry generation," said Legg, who is 51. "They are facing a planet that is dying, a home secretary that wants to hang people, the rent in Bristol is horrendous and they have no job prospects. It's not about a bunch of thugs taking part in a protest, there's a bigger picture people need to understand. Nobody is looking after this generation."

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