The community of Stoke's Croft in Bristol, who have been protesting against plans to open a Tesco for two years, was attacked last night as police in full riot gear attacked their peaceful protest. Scenes of violence ensued as police clashed with protesters.
Stoke's Croft, which has a reputation as a cultural hub, boasts one of the few remaining high streets in the country to be exclusively made up of independent and local businesses. That is, until now. Tesco, having been held back for two years finally opened its doors in Stoke's Croft this week. Protesters claim that Tesco already has several stores in the area, and that this one could severely damage the local businesses at the centre of this vibrant community.
The story is familiar in towns and cities across the world. When big corporations move in, small, locally owned businesses go bust. Most of us have seen it happen in our own neighbourhoods. Tesco have in recent years become increasingly expansionist, not only moving into emerging markets in countries such as China but in opening convenience stores alongside their larger supermarket branches in towns and cities across the UK.
Last night protesters gathered outside the newly opened Tesco Express branch to voice their opposition to the company opening on their high street. Youtube videos show a peaceful protest turning violent when police tried to move the protesters on, first by kettling, then attacking protesters with dogs and finally, violently charging the protesters down the street. Some of the protesters did fight back, such was the public anger at both the Tesco and the brutality of the police.
One local resident, a blogger known as Neuro Bonkers said:
I was dismayed by the council and police reaction to a sustained peaceful protest that has existed against Tesco for over two years. Until this week Stokes Croft was the last remaining major high street in the West of England inhabited exclusively by independent establishments. Tesco moved in despite universal local disapproval in an area already surrounded by dozens of Tesco stores. Despite the palpable disquiet protests have been entirely peaceful. This was not a volatile situation until police moved in to the area in full riot dress with no explanation for kettleing stokes croft except “health and safety” and “something to do with Tescos”. As police entered “Telepathic Heights” rumour spread that more raids on houses were intended. As this was not an unlikely story due to recent dawn raids on protesters houses and confiscation of computers and books over the last (xmas) exam period the community barricaded the remaining entrances to stokes croft and the police responded by charging the barricades, apparently for no other reason than for a fight. This action alone provoked violence from the famously diverse, educated, peaceful, loving and pacifist community of Stokes Croft.With tempers high the situation deteriorated into rioting as running battles between police and protesters (and residents caught on the wrong side of police lines) persisted all night. At one point the police retreated, allowing the protesters to attack the Tesco shop as well as abandoned police vehicles. The riots lasted for several hours, as the police continued to battle with protesters who barricaded the entrances to Stoke's Croft. In this video shows scenes as protesters built barricades, and caused damage to Tesco's facade. We later see a stand-off with police, in which a few protesters throw missiles while cries of "Pacifism! Stop being aggressive!" come from other sections of the crowd.
Josh Kility, a local resident contacted The Leftists. He was not at the protest himself, but watched a live stream online from a mobile phone. He did look around this morning and took some pictures.