By ALEX WARD, ANDY DOLAN, DAVID BARRETT (DailyMail), and Henry Martin (MailOnline)
UNITED Kingdom — Detectives were last night hunting for up to 500 members of the ‘extremist’ mob responsible for one of Britain’s worst riots in a decade – with eight people arrested so far.
Some 21 officers were injured when individuals hijacked a peaceful protest and brought anarchy to Bristol streets on Sunday night.
Two officers were hospitalized, including one who suffered a punctured lung and broken ribs when he was stamped on by thugs.
Three police vehicles were set alight and nine seriously damaged during the chaos, which left officers fearing for their lives in shocking scenes reminiscent of the 2011 riots.
Avon and Somerset Police Federation chairman Andy Roebuck said some individuals tried to set fire to police vans while officers were still inside.
‘To my mind, that is attempted murder,’ he said.
So far, eight arrests have been made – six for violent disorder and two for possession of an offensive weapon.
Footage of the carnage shows rioters hurling missiles at officers defending Bridewell police station in the city center. Rioters were filmed celebrating atop burning police vehicles.
The violence erupted as night fell following a day of demonstrations when more than 3,000 people marched through the city to protest against planned legislation to hand police more powers to deal with peaceful demonstrations.
Police chiefs say the largely peaceful protest was infiltrated by individuals hell-bent on clashing with police.
Andy Marsh, the chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, said: ‘I believe the events were hijacked by extremists, people who were determined to commit criminal damage, to generate very negative sentiment about policing and to assault our brave officers.
‘There was a hardcore of serious criminals hidden within those 3,000 people – perhaps 400 or 500 people – and we certainly didn’t trigger this.
‘The officers were incredibly patient, incredibly professional and I pay tribute to them.’ Police have made eight arrests.
All are male and one is understood to be from Reading. The rest are from Bristol.
A clean-up operation was underway yesterday around the police station after thugs smashed the station’s windows and wrote ‘f*** the police’ on the walls.
Home Secretary Priti Patel was among those to criticize the ‘appalling thuggery’. She told MPs: ‘The scenes in Bristol were utterly shameful.
‘I will work with everybody to make sure that where the police need the powers to tackle the type of appalling thuggery and criminality that we saw yesterday, we will achieve that while absolutely protecting the right to protest peacefully in our country.’
Investigators have begun watching hours of CCTV, body-worn cameras, and witnesses’ videos, and hope to identify the rioters in the coming days. Scenes of officers being pelted by stones, bottles, and fireworks have been shared widely on social media. (AI|MTVN)