Bristol police are facing pressure by politicians and the public over their aggressive storming of a squat opposite a Tesco branch, which triggered a serious riot.
The Friday police operation in Stokes Croft area of Bristol against anti-Tesco activists led to eight police injuries after the provocative presence of scores of officers in full riot gear provoked clashes with protestors.
The situation developed into a crisis unseen in the city since the St Pauls riots in 1980, after the security forces raided the “Telepathic Heights,” a squat opposite the newly opened Tesco Express on Cheltenham Road.
The police apparently believed that the building was used to make petrol bombs stored for an attack on the Tesco store, which was not welcome by the residents.
The anger over the Tesco branch has led to warnings that the firm's other stores across Britain could face direst action.
The police were reportedly provocative in their operation as they used dogs, riot vans, a helicopter and 160 officers as well as extra forces from neighboring police constabularies to hunt four activists in the three-storey squat.
"What I can't understand is why, if the police wanted to arrest four people, they need dogs and more than 10 riot vans? If you come in with such a show of strength into a peaceful area of Bristol where the majority of people were sitting on the road with bongos and bicycles, of course it's going to spark antagonism,” said Kerry McCarthy, the MP for Bristol East.
"It would be interesting to see exactly what intelligence the police were acting upon that required such a fierce response. I have met with the chief constable and voiced my concerns," McCarthy added.
Meanwhile, Sam Bernard, a 21-year-old student who witnessed the events in Stokes Croft said officers were “overly aggressive” in an operation to find something that did not exist.
"The police handling of the situation was overly aggressive and totally unclear. Police made the case of petrol bombs in a bid to evict the squatters but no one has been charged, and we are yet to see any evidence that petrol bombs even existed," Bernard said.
Activists have pledged to hold an anti-police protest in the area this Thursday.
The Bristol incident also led to calls for picketing tesco stores across Britain by groups not involved in the Friday incident.
"Ordinary people are deciding what's wrong with our High Street and are choosing not to stand for it anymore," said Stacy Thomas of UKUncut
The Avon and Somerset police that carried out the operation in Stokes Croft said 'allegations' of officers mishandling the situation will be investigated.
This comes as the squat's residents said they were not even linked to anti-tesco demonstrators.
"We had nothing to do with the riot. The people living in here are homeless. We get our food from the food bank. How are we supposed to afford petrol to make petrol bombs?" said Paddy who lives in the Telepathic Heights.