The BBC just cemented its position as a state-supporting broadcaster in its coverage of a #KillTheBill camp in Bristol on Tuesday 23 March. It didn’t provide balance in its reporting. Instead, the BBC dedicated an entire article to defending the Tories and the violent police. Moreover, it whitewashed the reality of what happened on the ground.
Bristol: more action to #KillTheBill
On 23 March, people set up a protest camp on College Green in Bristol. It came after what The Canary called the “siege of Bristol’s Bridewell police station” on Sunday 21 March, where police attacked people protesting the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The camp on College Green was also about this bill. But this time, people were raising awareness of certain aspects of it. These include the bill targeting and criminalising the Gypsy and Roma and Traveller (GRT) community.
Riot police from various forces eventually broke up the camp, and the protests that followed. The Canary‘s Eliza Egret was on the ground. She described the policing as “the most violent and disgraceful policing I have ever seen in the UK”:
The police formed a tight line around the green, ready to attack, as people sitting on the ground chanted “peaceful protesters”. A couple more minutes later the police waded in. They ripped up tents, trampled over a vigil for murdered women, and grabbed protesters from the ground, shoving them, kicking them and punching them, while screaming “GET BACK!”
Egret further reported:
Protesters told me that they were bitten by dogs, and I was informed that a 17-year-old had been hospitalised from a dog bite. I was also told that others were admitted to hospital after being hit on the head by the police’s shields. One woman told me she was hit in her face by a shield; another person’s arm was put in a sling by medics. At least one person was arrested in that initial attack.
People also tweeted film of what the police did:
Peaceful protestors being attacked by police just now at college green, Bristol – anyone still saying protestors are the villain need their heads wobbled pic.twitter.com/BljBEkQJe6
— fern (@_____fern) March 23, 2021
But if you’re the BBC – none of that happened. Because the police only took “action” in Bristol.
Its report focused on the police and home secretary Priti Patel’s responses. The BBC used phrasing such as:
police said they only took action after dark when people ignored instructions to leave.
In other words, the BBC made out the police had no choice. Its article led with Patel’s response. The BBC also put in comment from a police chief. But it failed to give the views of the people at the camp. Moreover, the BBC updated the article at least three times. Each change further pushed the Tory and police narrative. Oh, and the BBC failed to mention the changes in the most recent version of the article.
The ‘thugs’ trope is back
For example, one version quoted Patel as accusing people at the camp of:
criminality and violent behaviour.
But in the BBC‘s updated version, this changed to:
criminality and thuggish behaviour.
There was no mention of the police violence against peaceful protesters. But the BBC did include a brief comment in a later version of the article. This was from Points West reporter Andrew Plant. He admitted the:
police had [the peaceful protesters] under control by going in quite hard, I think it’s fair to say.
But he was also live-tweeting about the police attack. And his posts just made the BBC propaganda all the more worse.
Spinning for the state
At first, Plant wrongly said that the protest was about “rent prices”:
A protest over rent prices in Bristol involving 200 people swarmed by riot police. Now trouble kicking off for the second time in three days. More @BBCNews and @bbcpointswest pic.twitter.com/xieDyHXGNZ
— Andrew Plant (@BeebJournalist) March 23, 2021
As did another BBC hack:
Riot police have moved in on a protest in Bristol over rent prices. Around 200 people had set up tents in college green outside city hall. Dozens of riot police came from side streets and scuffles are ongoing as they try to move protesters on https://t.co/ryhXiTGoyH
— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) March 23, 2021
Then, Plant reported the BBC‘s favourite event: “scuffles” breaking out. This is, of course, BBC double-speak for ‘police violence’:
Calmer now in Bristol. Scuffles broke out as riot police surrounded protesters on College Green outside city hall earlier. Police and protesters have been in a stand-off for more than an hour now. pic.twitter.com/RXegRFs6sT
— Andrew Plant (@BeebJournalist) March 23, 2021
But crucially, Plant deleted a tweet. He wrote that the camp was “peaceful before police arrived”. And Plant included a clip:
Here is a screenrecording of the deleted tweet and accompanying video by a BBC journalist who alleged that the protests in Bristol were peaceful tonight until police arrived. Very visibly agitated police dogs and police in riot gear: pic.twitter.com/BHpjATEfAL
— M (@rosaluxemburgs) March 24, 2021
— Alon Aviram (@AlAviram) March 23, 2021
Press card fully on show, Just got threatened with dogs and force by an officer despite telling him we are journalists. A senior officer later stepped in to tell him to back off. pic.twitter.com/wptPVbI5mM
— Adam Cantwell-Corn (@AdamC_Corn) March 23, 2021
The sum of all these parts? As Netpol’s Kevin Blowe tweeted:
This is from last night's blatant act of vengeance. Riot officers from seven other forces were drafted into Bristol to violently impose what amounts to a total ban on any protest, with the senior officer in charge claiming protesters had "insulted" local communities https://t.co/CKdBR55kDK
— Kevin (Aggravated Activist) Blowe (@copwatcher) March 24, 2021
And the BBC fell right into line. Its coverage was what you would expect from an authoritarian state like North Korea. But of course, given the UK’s descent into corporate fascism – BBC output now fits into this malevolent agenda perfectly.
By Steve Topple
This post was originally published on The Canary.