POLICE have come under fire for their treatment of a reporter at demonstrations in Bristol on Friday night, during violent clashes between officers and protesters.

Daily Mirror journalist Matthew Dresch, who is a graduate of Cardiff University’s The School of Journalism, Media and Culture shared video footage that appeared to show police pushing him and hitting him with a baton.

In the video which has been viewed more than 1.4m times, he clearly shouted that he was a member of the press.

“Police assaulted me at the Bristol protest even though I told them I was from the press. I was respectfully observing what was happening and posed no threat to any of the officers,” he said.

Twitter users described the incident as outrageous and appalling.

Police officers have been supporting the policing of the demonstrations, but it is not yet clear if any officers from Wales were involved in the alleged assault.

Avon and Somerset police told Herald.Wales: “We’re aware of a video showing a journalist being confronted by officers during last night’s protest in Bristol.

“We’re making efforts to contact him. A free press is a cornerstone of our democracy a we fully respect the media’s vital role in reporting events fairly and accurately.”

Police were also criticised for alleged heavy-handedness towards protesters. Jasmine York, 25, was among those said to have been hurt by police on Friday night.

She said she had been trying to stay out of the way of police after receiving injuries, including a dog bite and baton strike, during protests last Sunday. She had been trying to discourage others from being violent, and to liaise with police to ensure that she was able to cooperate as far as possible, but that she was caught unawares when they suddenly advanced.

She said: “A policewoman barged me with her shield and I tripped. I fell to the floor and I went on to my back. My phone went and my keys went [out of my pocket]. I had my knees up to my chest and my arms over my head. I had two policewomen on my left using their shields to batter me, and two men on my right and they were hitting me with batons.

“The irony was that they kept asking me to get up. I was like: ‘I can’t’; and I was saying: ‘I’m on your side, I’m here to stop arseholes throwing shit at you.’”

York said officers dragged her up and when she tried to tell them she needed to go back to pick up her keys a policewoman told her: “Fuck your keys.” But another officer went back to pick them up and gave them to her and apologised for the way she had been treated.

Labour MP Nadia Whittome called for an investigation into the policing of the demonstrations.

“Reports of protesters and journalists injured last night in Bristol. The case for an independent investigation into the policing of the Bristol protests is clear,” she tweeted.

In an open letter she said there were “deeply concerned about the videos circulating on social media which appear to show police using excessive force against protesters”.

“Of particular concern are the reports of multiple journalists being intimidated and in some cases assaulted by the police. We condemn all violence. These scenes are chilling and should be of great concern to anyone who cares about civil liberties, regardless of views on the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill or the demands of the protests.”

Bristol, UK. 21st Mar, 2021. Picture Credit: Robert Timoney/Alamy Live News

The mayor of Bristol said violence was unwelcome and demonstrations should be “thoughtful, meaningful, peaceful and accountable”, with participants asking: “Is what I am doing advancing the cause I claim to be campaigning for?”

In a statement posted on Facebook, Marvin Rees said he was confident in the police’s ability to handle the demonstrations, saying that they had “shown they are capable of managing protests well and with sensitivity and have developed a strong culture of working with our communities”.

Rees said police had been brought in from neighbouring constabularies to deal with the number of protesters, and that this “makes it more difficult to drive the culture we have been building over recent years”.

“We know they will review some of the incidents that occurred last night and ensure those standards are upheld.”

Runacres said the force was expecting more protests over coming days.