Not so much caught as walked through a riot, but there was definitely a riot going on. The people on the streets at the time seemed pretty unsure what it was about, and the media now seem to be just as fuzzy on the details. There are two main issues though. One being a controversial new Tesco opening (how sad life is when a new Tesco express is controversial) and the other being the eviction of the infamous Telepathic Heights squat which happens to be beautifully adorned with graffiti.
The whole riot situation seems to have kicked off mostly due to the local Police wanting to evict the squatters at a particularly dumb time due to the ongoing Tesco related protests and the fact it was a bank holiday thursday evening with loads of drunk people around. On top of that the helicopter overhead only served as a beacon to attract more people to the party. All in all the night cost us the tax payers in excess of £60k in the form of wrecked Police cars, burnt street furniture and a massive clean up operation.
I have many thoughts on the situation. I like Tesco and enjoy collecting clubcards on my purchases. I like to pop in there and get what I want for a reasonable price. When staying in Bristol I frequently pay way more than I want to for stuff from a local shop and would prefer not to really. If local shops want to beat Tesco then they need to do better than them which is not hard! The area could use a free cash machine too.
If the residents of stokes croft are really so much against Tesco, the store will rarely have any shoppers and will soon start to fail to hit the hard targets it has to meet or it will be closed. Having read a bunch of the quotes from people against Tesco in Stokes Croft I cannot help but notice how few of them a) have jobs and b) are from Stokes Croft. The petition might have 2000 odd signatures from people against Tesco, but I am pretty sure half of those will still buy there out of laziness and because they are not that bothered. There are thousands of residents who probably would like the area to be cleaned up and receive investment too. Lets not forget that whilst Stokes Croft is a cool alternative area, it is also a bit of a hole full of dingy off licenses and dirty looking take aways. People commenting on the aftermath seem convinced Tesco has suffered here when really their insurance will pay out and it will probably cost all local businesses next year when their premiums go up.
On the squat situation, I like the look of the building and do not wish that to change. Maybe someone should buy it and make it into a cool bar, or art studio or something along those lines. A squat is not really what the area needs. Pretty sure the council would let it go for a good price!
In all fairness it was mostly dickheads joining in and not actually protesters involved in the riot. The Police came in heavy handed, but I would have liked to have see pretty severe fines and some rubber bullets for people who took it upon themselves to smash glass everywhere, burn stuff, throw objects at police, smash Tesco.