A woke jury has cleared a Kill the Bill rioter after accepting he was acting in self-defence when he stole an officer’s baton and kicked their shield – months after BLM activists who tore down a statue of Edward Colston also walked free.
Kadeem Yarde, 24, was among hundreds of young people who marched on Bridewell police station in Bristol city centre on March 21 last year.
More than 40 officers were injured during the ‘mass disorder’, in which the windows of the police station were smashed and several vehicles set alight.
The demonstration was organised to show discontent towards the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – with the riots subsequently dubbed ‘Kill the Bill’ protests.
The jury heard that Yarde, described as a ‘committed social justice activist’, disarmed the officer of their baton and kicked their riot shield ‘to ward off attack in the face of excessive force from police officers’.
He was today cleared of single counts of rioting and violent disorder following a trial at Bristol Crown Court last week.
His acquittal comes after the so-called ‘Colston Four’ were acquitted of criminal damage for the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston at the same court in January.
At the time, critics attacked the ‘extraordinary’ verdict as a ‘vandals’ charter’ which they feared could hand other demonstrators a ‘dangerous’ licence to carry out similar acts.
Kadeem Yarde, 24, was among hundreds of young people who marched on Bridewell police station in Bristol city centre on March 21 last year
Police officers battle with rioters during the Kill the Bill protest in Bristol city centre in March last year
Yarde’s acquittal comes months after the so-called ‘Colston Four’ were acquitted of criminal damage for the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston at the same court
A vandalised police van explodes outside Bridewell Police Station after protesters set it on fire during the riot on March 21 last year
But government sources insisted the trial would not stop authorities bringing prosecutions against vandals to damaged or defaced statues during political protests.
Speaking after the acquittal today, David Rhodes QC, representing Yarde, said: ‘The police had significantly underestimated the numbers of protesters expected and as a result were caught under-prepared and under-resourced.
‘The police had significantly underestimated the numbers of protesters expected and as a result were caught under-prepared and under-resourced.’
‘It is fair to say that there was ill-discipline on the part of both the protesters and the police. The result was that by nightfall there were scenes of mass disorder, with the police station smashed up and police vehicles on fire.
‘Kadeem Yarde is a committed social justice activist with a track record of peaceful protest.
‘The defence case was that in disarming a police officer of a baton and kicking a riot shield to ward off attack, Mr Yarde had acted in self-defence and defence of another when faced with excessive force by police officers.’
He added: ‘A number of defendants have been tried for Riot arising from the disturbance in Bristol on 21 March 2021. This was the first complete acquittal.
‘The jury delivered their verdict on the same day that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, having received Royal Assent, was formally published by the Government.’
It comes as two other trials connected to the riot in March 2021 ended with the jury unable to reach a verdict.
Riot police, backed by police vans, pictured moving down Bristol’s Rupert Street during the protest last year
A rioter smashes the windscreen of an already vandalised police van as violence erupted in the city
Police are confronted by protesters demonstrating against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on March 21 last year
Demonstrators stand near a burning police vehicle during the protest in Bristol during the riots
Joseph Paxton, 30, from Montpelier in Bristol, denied a charge of riot, and also said his actions were taken in self-defence.
The jury failed to reach a verdict in his case, and a retrial has been pencilled in at Bristol Crown Court for January 9 next year.
Indigo Bond, from Fishponds, who was 19 on the day of the protests, had earlier pleaded not guilty to a charge of riot.
The jury again failed to reach a verdict on the case, and the CPS is understood to now be considering the next steps.
They are among a number of cases to have passed through Bristol Crown Court since the riots took place.
A woman who was caught on camera attacking police officers and smashing the window of a police station in Bristol was jailed for five-and-a-half years in March.
Mariella Gedge-Rogers, of Clifton, Bristol, was found guilty by unanimous verdict of rioting by a jury at the court.
In videos shown to the court, she was seen to hit an officer on the head with a skateboard and throw improvised missiles at other officers from the roof of the police station.
She was also seen repeatedly striking the front window of the station with her skateboard before passing it to a man for him to do the same.
Matthew O’Neill, 30, set fire to a police van during the ‘shameful night’ last year.
He used lit items under the van and a police shield to fan the flames during violent scenes
Mariella Gedge-Rogers (pictured), of Clifton, Bristol, was found guilty of rioting by a jury at Bristol Crown Court last month
O’Neill also used a police shield and baton to attack officers, as well as cause damage to the front of Bridewell Police Station.
He will attend a sentencing hearing on Monday May 23.
Jasmine York, 26, was filmed leading a crowd in chants of ‘ACAB’, which stands for ‘all cops are b******s’, and ‘f*** the police’, as violence erupted.
The protester had attended a vigil for at 2pm, but later joined crowds marching to the police station.
She live-streamed the protest from her phone and was also filmed helping to push an industrial bin towards a burning police car – acting as further fuel to the blaze.
York was given a nine-month sentence in March earlier this year.