UK police arrest 19 activists ahead of Epsom Derby
British police Saturday arrested 19 people ahead of the Epsom Derby after the rights group Animal Rising vowed to defy a court injunction and disrupt the blue-riband horse race.
Surrey Police reported the arrests in areas around the Epsom racecourse, near London, in the hours building up to one of British sport’s highest profile events at 1:30 pm (1230 GMT).
All were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance and remain in custody, the police force said.
Animal Rising confirmed to AFP that all 19 were its activists, and the direct-action group said it was undeterred both by the arrests and the court injunction obtained by the Jockey Club this week.
“It restates its commitment to protect horses and disrupt the Derby,” the group said in a statement, accusing the police of “heavy-handedness and intimidation tactics”.
Animal Rising activists stormed the Grand National race at Aintree in April, and last week said they had “rescued” three lambs from slaughter on a farm on King Charles III’s Sandringham estate.
Three horses were destroyed after getting injured during the Grand National steeplechase festival — proof, the group says, that racing is fatally dangerous.
It has been mobilising on social media to follow up with more protests at Epsom, urging supporters: “We need as many people as possible to get on the tracks with us.”
The Jockey Club, which includes Aintree, Epsom and Cheltenham among its tracks, successfully applied for the High Court injunction — breaches of which would amount to contempt of court, possibly entailing jail time.
The injunction prohibits individuals from entering onto the Epsom racetrack, and carrying out other acts with the intention and/or effect of disrupting the races.
Jockey Club chief executive Nevin Truesdale had welcomed the court ruling, following what he called the group’s “dangerous and reckless behaviour” at Aintree.
“Our number one priority will always be to ensure that the safety of all our equine and human participants and racegoers, officials and our own employees is not compromised,” he said in a statement.