I was thinking of other things I should post, but really this seems more important.
A little background
Stokes Croft is a part of Bristol (UK) which is known as a bit of a dump (drugs, violence, empty shops/houses), but which also is full of 'alternative' culture (graffiti art etc) and has an incredible amount of community spirit. There's even a group called The People's Republic of Stokes Croft! It's stuff like this which makes Bristol such an interesting, fun, diverse city to live in.
A little more
Tesco wanted to open a shop in Stokes Croft, despite there already being loads in the surrounding area. Local people objected, they submitted formal complaints, they struggled for several years (see http://notesco.wordpress.com ) but Tesco gained consent and opened a store there last week (exact date?).
Last Thursday night there was a riot, which stemmed from police going to a disused council building at 9.15pm to arrest some squatters. That much is absolutely definite. There have been so many accounts written, lots of misreporting from various news outlets, lots of details filled in by Social Media, and lots of anger directed both at police and protesters. There's been mention of petrol bombs. Police behaviour has been heavily questioned, it's been asked how the arrest of four people escalated into a riot involving police from several neighbouring forces which lasted until at least 5am, and where the tip off came from in the first place.
On Wednesday people gathered in St Andrews Park (nearby) to watch footage of the riot and talk about it. Police tried to stop them and confiscated their screen, so they moved to a private house and continued in peace.
People tried to hold a peaceful protest against police behaviour in Stokes Croft, but somehow it all kicked off again. Other accounts have more and better detail than me. When the boy and I came home from a party at around 2am there were lots of people at the bottom of his street (who'd presumably been moved on or blocked out of Stokes Croft) and the police helicopter kept him up and was still there in the morning. A road a few blocks down was apparently "trashed".
I find it hard to know what to think, it's hard to know what's going on as the few media reports there were last week all had gaping inaccuracies and this week everything has been swamped by the royal wedding*. Kudos to all the people who went down there, saw for themselves, took photos, videoed it, blogged it, and generally are spreading information. Without them we'd only have the police line on it all, and that's not a comforting thought.
I don't think I know enough about what happened either time to form a coherent opinion but I think that it's important to read several different accounts, what one takes as gospel is hotly denied by another. Here're a few that I've found particularly useful:
- http://fucknobristol.tumblr.com Has been aggregating things throughout
- Jonathan Taphouse's awesome photos, they deservedly made it into several national newspapers http://fucknobristol.tumblr.com/post/4932868683
- Re the disrupted screening http://fucknobristol.tumblr.com/post/5020248184
- Police take on that: http://bit.ly/jV9pdJ
- Chris Bertram's summary: http://goo.gl/sC6gN
- Avon & Somerset Police Operation page for the original thing: http://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/LocalPages/NewsDetails.aspx
- Dru Marland - another take & an excellent sense of humour: http://dru-withoutamap.blogspot.com/2011/04/how-many-petrol-bombs.html
- Bristol Flickr Group - photos & angry discussion: http://www.flickr.com/groups/bristol/
- Also I recommend searching for #stokescroft on Twitter
Bristol, you can be scary sometimes. But your spirit is part of why I love you.