RIOTING spread to Bristol on Monday night with trouble on the streets of St Paul’s, Montpelier, St Werburgh’s, Kingswood and at Cabot Circus shopping centre.
The violence started in the early hours of the morning, as masked gangs of youths threw bricks in the streets and set cars and bins alight.The aftermath of the trouble was visible this morning as fire crews were still working to make the areas safe.
Smashed glass, fragments of bricks and charred rubbish littered some street.
Four arrests had been made by Tuesday morning.
Police reported that rioters rampaged through the city and police chiefs warned of “volatile” scenes in the city centre.
Rioting started in London on Saturday after a peaceful protest in Tottenham over the fatal shooting of a man by police. Last night, it continued to spread across the nation’s capital.
There has also been trouble in Birmingham, Liverpool and Nottingham overnight.
In Bristol more than 150 young rioters were causing disruption in St Paul’s and Stokes Croft – the scene of rioting earlier this year amid anger over the controversial new Tesco store, which had its windows smashed again.
A 34-year-old mum of four in William Street in St Paul’s, where two burnt out cars are, said she couldn’t understand why the violence had erupted.
“It started about 10pm and there was a whole heap of people gathered and large amounts of police,” she said.
“They set bins on fire and lit a sofa in the middle of the road and then the cars were set on fire as well.
“It was a bit scary – the kids slept through it even though there were loud bangs as bits of the cars went up. The kids were really scared when they saw it this morning.
“I just hope it’s the end of it. It all very worrying and doesn’t make much sense to me.”
People were warned to stay clear of the city centre last night as police launched efforts to bring the scenes under control.
A number of shops and vehicles have been damaged, and last night several main roads have been closed to help police take control of the trouble.
Chief Superintendent Jon Stratford said: “We have been working closely with other forces and criminal behaviour like this will not be tolerated.
“We were hoping this type of disorder would not come to Bristol. However we have plenty of units on duty ready to respond.
“Our primary concern is to keep people safe and minimise disruption to residents, motorists and local businesses.
“We will always respect the right of any individual or group to take part in a peaceful protest.
“But when disorder occurs, we have a duty to the wider community to do everything we can to calm the situation and restore order and prevent criminality.”
In Cabot Circus, the Thomas Sabo shop was raided by looters in the early hours.
The store, which sells jewellery, watches and charms suffered thousands of pounds worth of damage and losses.
Both front window panels were smashed at about 3am and hundreds of items were stolen from the large window displays at the front.
Store manager Stewart White said: “I had a phone call at about 3am from Cabot Circus saying the shop had been attacked and I was down here as soon as I could.
“It appears a group of people came down the path opposite and it looks like our shop was the first one they saw. With a big window display and lots of shiny things in it they just went for it.
“It’s too early to say how much we have lost because I’m trying to tot it all up at the moment, but it is fair to say we’re talking about thousands of pounds.
“I can understand people are frustrated with what’s going on in the country at the moment but at the end of the day it’s not just the police that suffer it’s all the average Joes like us.”
The McDonald’s on the Horsefair had two windows smashed overnight. This was the same restaurant targeted during the Stokes Croft riots in April.
A spokeswoman for Cabot Circus said: “The only store affected was Thomas Sabo the jewellers – windows were smashed there and stock was taken. We don’t know how much was taken.
“Some glass was broken on the window of John Anthony in Quakers Friars but nothing was taken and the police handled the situation.”
Residents and shopkeepers in St Paul’s, Montpelier and St Werburgh’s were emerging to survey the damage this morning.
Julian Celer, 42, of Montpelier, said: “I heard the helicopter all night but I didn’t actually see anything until this morning, it’s a bit of a shock to see the bins have been set on fire and to hear on the news about what’s happened.
“I’m not really surprised the riots have spread from London, Bristol is always a flash point for these kind of things.”
One St Paul’s shopkeeper, who did not wish to be named, said it appeared last night that the groups in Stokes Croft, Montpelier and St Paul’s had been separate – not one group moving from one place to another.
In Saxton Street in Montpelier, firefighters were working this morning to put out flames at a gas main which had caught fire overnight after a bin fire spread. Residents had to be evacuated.
The violence also spread to Kingswood where a mobile phone shop in the High Street was plundered.
The shuttering on the front of V J’s Telecommonumications was wrecked and phones stolen.
The front of the shop, which has been trading for two years, was boarded up early today.
Shop assistant Steven Hathway, aged 27, said it was disgusting what had happened.
‘I can’t believe they have done this’ he said ‘They should respect people’s property’.
Police called out the Welsh based security firm, Security Solutions Yes Ltd, which boarded up the shop and made it safe.
A spokesman for the firm said they were also called out early today to premises in Upton Road, Southville and Bath Road, Bitton.
James Bladon, a spokesman for Avon Fire and Rescue, said crews were called to a number of incidents in the early hours of this morning.
He said: “Between midnight and 5.30am fire crews went to 10 incidents of rubbish and vehicle fires in and around the St Paul’s area. There were no reports of injuries to members of the public or fire fighters.”
Mr Bladon said there had been three vehicle fires and the others were blazes in rubbish bins.
Up to 30 firefighters were drafted in from across the city to help tackle blazes, with crews from Bedminster, Avonmouth, Patchway, Brislington and Speedwell joining their colleagues at Temple, either on standby throughout the night or dealing with incidents.
Stephen Williams, Lib Dem MP for Bristol West, said: “It is completely unjustified. It is not really rioting, it is actually just looting and the behaviour of vandals.
“Smashing shops, setting bins on fire or stealing jewellery has got nothing to do with legitimate political cause and everything to do with theft and opportunism.”