A local campaign to prevent the opening of another Tesco store in the area has been running for a couple of years, organising demonstrations and direct action. Following the opening of the store protesters have been calling for a boycott of the supermarket, which it is argued will have a negative impact on the area.
Peaceful protests developed into a riot when 160 police with shields and batons descended on the area, allegedly following reports that local squatters intended to petrol bomb the store. The police response was heavy-handed and confrontational.
Stokes Croft is known as a hub of artistic endeavours, with a strong sense of independence and difference from the increasingly homogenised high streets in much of the UK. Some have suggested that the police actions smacked of trying to clean up the area ready for gentrification.
Events continued through the evening as people left bars and clubs and saw what was going on.
There was a sense that the violence came about, not only as a result of Tesco opening, but also of people's continuing frustration with the Con-Dem government, bankers' bonuses and the billions of spending cuts.
When ordinary people are not listened to, anger grows and can boil over into violence. We need more than ever a strong political voice that can take on the neoliberal agenda of the government and their friends in big businesses like Tesco.