In this multimedia age, the word on the street is generally a Tweet. From the sinister rumblings of the underworld keen on anarchistic violence, to the fear and disgust of the vast majority of Bristolians – the virtual world of Twitter became the flashpoint for real world rioting on our streets.
By Monday evening, some individuals in the city were clearly spoiling for a copycat riot of the civil unrest across London.
By 10pm one man was writing: “if its in bristol I’ll be there bro!”
Half an hour earlier the same individual had written on his Twitter blog, “know this! I hope the whole country riot! I need a new laptop”
Other disturbing comments appearing on the social network site around the same time included: “Finally the people’s chance to get their own backs on police that’ve let them down and shop keepers who overcharged them #londonriots”
And one young Bristol girl wrote: “lol! Obvs Bristol is very gangsta too :p gotta get hyped … its like being famous lol”
By 9pm, peaceful Twitter users across the city were beginning to voice serious concerns.
Bristol woman Kerry Masey wrote: “hoping to god the riots dont start in Bristol, alot of people tweeting they will. scary stuff stay safe everyone!!!”
Moments later Alix Tucker tweeted: “Spreading across the whole country…. On Facebook talk of riots in Cabot Circus Bristol. This is mental. Ruining peoples lives!”
Shortly before 9.30pm, Twitter user Charley Pearce wrote: “Heard people on Facebook planning riots in Bristol tonight. Sickening.”
But as 10pm struck, many were still not taking the threats seriously.
One man wrote: “I’m not worried about the riots coming near me, bristol had riots a few months ago, it doesnt scare me, I’m worried about people in london!”
Somebody else wrote: “if the riots spread to bristol, they better not burn the gorillas.”
As the night progressed there was a growing sense that rioting on 24 hour news channels was being seen as a form of “entertainment”.
One Bristol woman wrote: “Great riots in Birmingham too. Well Bristol will soon follow. It always does.”
By 10.30pm, Abby-Louise Carter was writing: “I’m hearing Cabot and Easton riots?? #bristol. God I hope not!” While a Twitter user known simply as James, wrote: “Bristol is having a go now too, apparently #riots”
Bristol schoolgirl Sophie, wrote: “It was for a reason at first, but now it’s mainly opportunists. I’m a tad concerned it might spread to Bristol…#riots”
A Bristolian called Harriet wrote: “Apparently the riots have reached Bristol. If I weren’t atheist I‘d be praying with all I’ve got that it’s not true.” Elly Coles added: “Hate when bristol riots, we rioted 2 months ago about a tesco opening! now we joinin in with this!”
Another rumoured: “Apparently London riots spread to Bristol. Cabot circus is on fire & they robbed Maccy D’s? #fattyneeds”
By 11pm the rumours seemed more definite: “riots broke out in easton, bristol? not surprised, they always try to keep up with the ‘trends‘-.- eghh i hate where i live.” At midnight a Twitter account attributed to “The Student Revolt” wrote: “Riot police gearing up in Bristol, seen a few flashing lights but no definite signs of #riots yet. #bristolriots”
Moments later another user wrote” “bristol city centre being hit now! “
At 1am, one Twitter user seemed to be revelling in the words: “Hearing riots in Bristol Cabot circus #bristolriots”
By 2am, a person on the streets of Bristol wrote: “Group of men hitting a 12 year old boy with a balaclava claimed he tried to start riots. #bristol”
At 3am James Cridland wrote: “Nastiness in #stokescroft in Bristol, but only bins burnt. Don’t want to list “lots of police” or I‘d be listing every small crime. #riots”
But at the same time Harriet Tolputt tweeted: “Police say situation in Bristol volatile. Cars and buildings damaged. Roads closed #riots”
As dawn rose, the chorus of Bristolian Tweeters were lamenting the anarchy of the previous night.
At 7am Heidi Simpson wrote: “Sadly we wake to the news that our city, Bristol, participated in this madness. #riots”
Nicola Clarke wrote: “Waking up to hear there were riots in Bristol last night too. So, so sad. These idiots are destroying lives.“