Last night, Bristol’s city center erupted in violence as far-left rioters smashed up the police station, assaulted police — breaking some officers’ bones — and set vehicles on fire. The scenes of violence and arson were familiar to me. It looked like any night out of Portland, Oregon, where I’m from. Since May 2020, Black Lives Matter-antifa rioters have regularly carried out similar organized acts of carnage targeting courthouses and police stations.
Some of the rioters in Bristol last night were dressed in black bloc as they set dumpsters on fire to block streets and used barricades as battering rams to attack police. They also came armed with explosive mortar fireworks, a favorite projectile weapon among antifa to disorientate, deafen, blind and injure cops.
Though the protest-turned-riot was ostensibly organized to oppose the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would allow police to impose more conditions on protests and increase penalties for those convicted of vandalizing statues, among other things, the demonstration had all the hallmarks of a far-left gathering.
The ‘Kill the Bill’ protest was promoted by the Bristol chapters of a Black Lives Matter-style group, Extinction Rebellion and Momentum, the hard-left wing within the Labour party. Unsurprisingly, British antifa groups also encouraged their comrades to support the violence.
‘Be careful about sharing footage with people’s faces who aren’t wearing masks,’ warned one antifa group. ‘Solidarity with all the comrades out there in Bristol fighting the bill and facing hard repression,’ tweeted Brighton Antifascists. ‘Spread the fire,’ they urged. And the fire spread.
Hundreds of protesters had gathered earlier in the city center carrying hammer and sickle flags, symbols of anarchist-communism, and signs against racism and fascism. The most frequent message spray-painted on vehicles and buildings at the riot? Antifa’s adopted slogan of ‘ACAB’ — all cops are bastards.
I recently visited Bristol. I noticed immediately that the leftist student politics of the University of Bristol and other colleges seemed to define the city’s wider political culture. That is, Bristol is a left-wing political monoculture, much like Portland.
‘Black Lives Matter’ signs are plastered over many buildings and windows, and antifa stickers are easily found around the city. Given Bristol’s political and social culture, it is no surprise that this is where rioters felt empowered to topple a statue of Edward Colston in an American-style George Floyd protest in June 2020. The protesters then rolled the bronze statue down the street where they dumped it into the harbor. The police just watched and did not intervene.
The parallels between Bristol and Portland only go so far, of course. Bristol is nowhere near as bad or grim as my hometown. However, if British law enforcement continue to turn a blind eye to far-left political violence in the city, yesterday’s riots will indeed become a daily norm. Antifa are already calling for it to become so.