Stokes Croft riot, the aftermath

23 04 2011

Photographs of the Stokes Croft riot make the front page of two national newspapers today. The story of police trying to evict squatters who allegedly were making petrol bombs, the catalyst for the riot and subsequent burning of the new Tesco Express on Cheltenham Road is seen as an allegory in the Independent for the “swelling currents of resentment against corporate giants”.

If Tesco is the loser, Bristol wedding and documentary photographer Jonathan Taphouse is the winner, with his vivid photographs of the action – fires burning, dogs barking, rioters shouting – used by much of the media in the absence of national news crews on the scene.

Was the backlash against Bristol’s 31st Tesco, in an area immensely proud of its independent spirit, inevitable? In today’s Evening Post, Claire Milne from the No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign, says, “I told you so”.

Were the police, attempting to evict the squatters at the start of the Easter bank holiday, too heavy-handed?

These are two of the key questions after a night in which Bristol and Stokes Croft hit back at The Man.

In last week’s Venue, Chris Chalkley from the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, urged readers, with tongue firmly in cheek, to “welcome the supermarket into the local community”. “Now the wait is over, and we finally have the unique opportunity to sample the unique delights of Tesco’s latest local store,” wrote Chalkley.

As soon as the store opened, protesters were camped outside. Protesters have vehemently opposed Tesco opening in Stokes Croft every step of the way, as vociferous in their protests against the store as Tesco have been stubborn pushing it through the planning stages until permission was finally granted by councillors.

But the Stokes Croft riot was not because of anti-Tesco protesters. The opposition to the shop is widespread and the riot would never have happened if Tesco had not opened. However, the people starting fires and engaged in running battles with police were rioters, not protesters. They were engaged in mindless violence and spurred on by a mob mentality, the direct opposite of the No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign’s thoughtful statements during the planning process.

As word spread, fuelled by up-to-the-minute reports on Twitter from the likes of @PearCafe that Stokes Croft was burning, more and more people turned up to spectate and in some cases participate. Even Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy went down to join the fun, getting shoved by police in the process.

What began peacefully, with two people sat on top of a bus shelter playing saxophones, soon escalated into all-out violence: bottles and concrete blocks thrown at police, a police car destroyed, police and rioters hospitalised, Tesco trashed.

Two police officers are currently stationed outside what used to be the Tesco Express on Cheltenham Road (below), with glass littering the street where the riot took place and squatters defiantly remaining in the building opposite known as Telepathic Heights, in which police allege the petrol bombs were being made.

Tesco remains closed today. However, it will defy local resentment and will soon re-open. The supermarket giant is a master at playing the long-game, but on Cheltenham Road they have a battle on their hands, one that erupted literally on Thursday night into Friday morning and one that will continue for a long time to come.




4 responses

28 04 2011
Ben Edwards

Why did Stokes Croft riot happen? – Investigation into the events in Bristol over the April Bank Holiday – check out film at

28 04 2011
Three on a Thursday #13 « Sherlock Ohms's Blog

[…] beatboxing and playing a tambourine, then rapping and playing the guitar over it’ style thing whilst it was all kicking off outside. If I was distracted enough to ignore that kind of shenanigans, imagine how good this tune […]

30 04 2011
Ephemeral Digest » Stokes Croft riot, and why Northcliffe wish there was a riot in Clifton

[…] as much interest as others. See Kerry MP, Don’t Forget The Sun, Nancy Knits, Tigerlilyquinn, Bristol Culture, Eugene Byrne and Something Doing among […]

14 11 2012
the 1st Bristol Mayor! a National Pioneer or Electile Dysfunction? « Cosmic Loti

[…] The original Electile Dysfunction plus comments, almost discusses the US election this month; highlighting the need for keeping our own morality and wisdom strong while working in the material world. Photo credit of front page via Bristol Culture […]

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