Well I know it’s been a fair few days since this occurred and I thought a few times about whether I should share my thoughts. I wasn't actually in Stokes Croft at the time of the event and awoke on Friday morning to hear about it. What surprised me however was the reaction to it, where as I thought any violent riot would be condemned I have seen very little blogs supporting this view which is why I felt the need to share. I'm sure it wont make me too popular.
You may or may not be aware of the events that took place at Stokes Croft on Thursday night, If you are local to Bristol I'm sure you will have and if not then please indulge my rant. It seems the events started when the police attempted to arrest the squatters living in Telepathic Heights under intelligence that they were making petrol bombs to target the local Tesco. As far as I am aware from the recent news petrol bombs were taken from the premises but I am unsure of the following details in regards to this part of the story. If the police had this intelligence then I'm sure any rational person would agree that this is something they needed to act on. People are posing the questions as to whether the amount of police presence to make these arrests was appropriate. From accounts I can gather from witnesses that were actually there it seems that by the end of the event there were roughly 160 officers and 200 people, as to whether the 160 officers were there from the start to arrest four people I am unsure, but if this is the case then I am sure such a huge police presence would have caused antagonism to the local people. However this is a 'chicken and the egg' situation, the police turning up with such a huge presence does attract a large crowd, however if they are had gone in with smaller numbers and this riot had still occurred they would be under prepared and the situation could have been a lot worse.
Following these events a protest that turned into a violent riot in regards to the issue of the local Tesco began which lasted well into the next morning.
Here are my thoughts about the matter:
If the police were heavy handed in their dealings with the 'protesters/rioters' this needs to reviewed, I do not think the police are above criticism but this being said I also do respect they had a difficult job to do that night. A lot of reports of the matter seem to have left out the fact that eight police officers were injured (teeth knocked out and head injuries due to being attacked with bricks and bottles) and their vehicles vandalised. I also feel extremely sorry for the staff in the said Tesco who must have been terrified as the violence started and who I believe were all led out safely out the back as it progressed.
There is a great deal of Youtube footage of the people hacking up the street and throwing lumps of concrete at the police behind riot shields. I hope this in conclusive evidence to prosecute the people responsible for this.
I think that people are welcome to 'protest' about subjects they care about but in an organized way and NOT when violence is concerned so I condemn any people involved in taking part in these acts of violence.
Tom and I until recently lived on Cheltenham Road (where the Tesco is) and I was born on Thomas Street which is literally 2 mins away so I do feel I have a good sense of the community in Stokes Croft. The videos you can find on the event have the crowd shouting 'our streets, our streets' but it is 'our streets' that are demolished and littered with glass and burned bins from the fires they started, funny how the same people had no intention to clear this the next day..no that would be the local council then. The local bike shop and Salvation Army were also smashed up in the process by these rioters.
The decision to carry on with the planned Tesco on Stokes Croft was made by the council (where surely people should be protesting?) and it was obviously of the displeasure of lots of the local residents. Surely now it had opened the next plan of action should be to boycott it? If no one shopped there it would close within 6 months. Since the riot Tesco will have no choice but to reopen or they will be seen to be giving in to violence and it will promote the message that as long as you get angry and smash up enough things you will have your way. I signed the petition a while ago to appose the suggestion of a Tesco on Stokes croft simply as I thought the space could be used for a local shop but since the riots I have little interest in being involved anything to do with these protestors.
Claire Milne, co-coordinator of the No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign, said: "The homogenisation of the high street is the antithesis of the creativity that exists here. There is also a strong sustainability and organic movement here." hmm well I find this a little puzzling only in the fact I know Stokes Croft, there are approximately three local newsagents, two of which are highly overpriced and sell mostly the worst kind of white bread, cigarettes and alcohol and one of which has the hugest amount of porn I have ever seen in a newsagent, all at floor level so definitley not a family friendly place (but that is beside the point). The third is the local Post Office which I agree is a great asset to the community but I'm sorry it still sells the overpriced low quality items none of which are organic. If we are on the subject of promoting organic eating surely an organisation such as Tesco should be targeted as getting on board with the organic movement? People are more likely to buy organic if there is choice and if the prices are reasonable? I try to buy local as much as I can but yep I do shop in supermarkets and if there is a organic option and it is near or similar in price (or sometimes cheaper) to the non-organic alternative I will buy it, this is where the local shops sometimes fail as they sadly do not have the buying power.
If I am to think about it yes there are a couple of organic shops in the area but they are up on Gloucester road next to the newly opened ‘Sainsbury’s’, which oddly no one seems to have an issue with?!?!? Surely the issue wasn't the food quality but the backlash against big corporate companies taken over local shops, in which case things seem to have got a little confused.
Another issue people seem to have with Tesco opening is that Stokes Croft is Bristol's Cultural corner, like I said we have lived in the area and like it very much. It boasts cafe's and galleries (like lots of places in Bristol) but it also boasts three brothels very close to the new Tesco (one that has just recently opened), I know its not productive to say 'your against such but your not addressing about such and such' but a lot of the reports on the events seem to romanticize the area and the protesters but Tesco is surely only one offender where exploitation of people is taking place?
A lot of the people involved in these riots are played out in the media as heroes, the police as the villains in reality it is a lot more grey.
I think what has become clear to me after this event is the winner of this outcome is not the protesters (lots of people who were previously supportive are now distancing themselves) not the police, not the local people who had to deal with glass on their streets. Not the Tesco workers (who are only trying to do their job in this climate are they really to be persecuted for this?!) and who are now temporarily out of work. Nope Tesco will undoubted open up again with more security proving that this entire ugly scene really achieved nothing.
I'm sure my views are not going to popular with everyone, haters gunna hate :)