July 21st, Cumberland Basin, Bristol.
A free party organised by the Mutant Dance collective began just after midnight. As people arrived from all directions, many from the Ashton court festival, there was no sign of trouble. The site has been used for free parties for years without any problems. Half a dozen cops stood by, talking into their radios and watching the partygoers arrive. The crowd quickly grew and the atmosphere was friendly. People were up for a laugh and a night of dancing.
At around 1 am over 10 riot vans appeared and hoardes of cops began putting on their riot gear as the police helicopter circled overhead. Attempts were made by several partygoers to communicate with the police and to prevent any aggro. One organiser offered to move the party elsewhere if there was a problem with this site. He was arrested for “Conspiracy to cause a public nuisance” (charges later dropped). The only responses given to partygoers asking about police intentions were “Go away, I have nothing to say to you”, and “If you’re down there you’re going to get hurt”.
There was no attempt by officers to address the crowd and at no point did they make it clear that the party was illegal. Instead, at 2am, around 30 officers in full riot gear came to attack the party. By this time word had gone around, and many people formed a human chain around the DJs and sound systems to protect them. Many officers wore masks and no I.D. numbers – no comeback for cracking heads. They drew batons and assaulted a few people but did not break through the lines of people standing their ground. The strength and unity of the crowd was impressive in the face of unprovoked police aggression. But one person was dragged away, under a rain of baton blows as people shouted at the police to leave.
After a stand off the order was given to withdraw, and the crowd cheered. People were shaken up but the party continued until sunrise. Then the police came back, en masse and with dogs. This is when the worst attack began. Cops came from both sides of the party and began trashing the sound system and indiscriminately beating people. One eyewitness recounts :
“The police charged at everyone hitting them with their truncheons and trampling anyone in the way. I saw at least 15 people being hit with truncheons, some were young females doing absolutely nothing. I saw one young female around 18 years old being hit while on the floor by at least 5 police officers with truncheons…”
Injuries ranged from bruises and bleeding noses to neck injuries, fractured wrists and broken arms. Most of those on the receiving end of this “public order” policing were young women. Many were traumatised by sickening police violence. Some are now taking legal action against Avon and Somerset constabulary. Several women have been approached by an Inspector Voisey of Portishead Police H.Q. He is part of the Police Complaints Authority and appears eager to arrange interviews. When one woman who received a bad beating on the night refused to meet him, he suggested maybe he could send round some plain clothes officers for a chat. He told another woman who declined to give him her files on the incident, “ We do have the power of seizure”. Hardly the language you would expect from the supposedly objective PCA. Could it be that the PCA are more interested in finding any words or ways to justify the actions of the riot police on 21st July? Perhaps Voisey and friends could consider a name change to Police Cover-up Authority.
A big benefit night in October raised enough money to replace the damaged sound kit. Clearly, people refuse to be intimidated and will carry on partying. The party crews will continue to regularly organise unlicensed, free gatherings. Bristol has a strong network of sound systems up for organising entertainment on our own terms, without profit and controls. It is widely believed that this police attack was planned as revenge for failing to stop a massive free festival which took place in the summer at Steart, near Bridgewater. Police were powerless to stop thousands of up-for-it people and around thirty sound systems converging for a huge all-weekend party. Plenty more where that came from!!
URGENT WITNESS REQUEST
There is an urgent need for witness statements about the police attack on the free party. Police are attempting to deny charges of brutality, claiming that they were attacked by ravers. 3 people are still facing public order charges and could face prison sentences. We can’t let the authorities make an example of these people to the rest of us. For legal action to be effective, we need as many detailed statements as possible. If you or anyone you know were assaulted or arrested, or witnessed police attacking or arresting anyone else, we need to hear from you.
Writing a statement might take just 20 minutes of your time. It could be crucial for anyone facing charges or with a case against the police. By sticking together and looking after each other, we can expose the truth of the police violence, prevent police fit-ups of partygoers, and make Avon and Somerset Constabulary pay compensation. So we need as many statements as possible from people at the party.
We encourage people to go through the police complaints procedure. This will make stronger cases for those suing the police. We are in touch with solicitors who specialise in suing the police. You or someone you know may have a good case against the police and you’re not alone, as others are determined to take legal action.
We cannot let them get away with this violence. If we do nothing and resign ourselves to it all, the police will have carte blanche to attack more free parties. Also, when they have to pay out thousands of pounds, it is likely to make them a bit more sensible and open to negotiation next time. Please contact us with any information. Send witness statements complete with contact details to email@example.com.
PARTY ON. STAY SOLID.