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Police arrest 19 ahead of Animal Rising protests at Epsom Derby Festival

The group Animal Rising accused Surrey Police of “abusing” their powers after 19 people were arrested on Saturday morning over alleged plans to disrupt the Epsom Derby Festival.

Officers reported 11 people were arrested at addresses in Byfleet and Mitcham early on Saturday morning, following warrants issued on tip-offs received ahead of the festival.

A further eight people were arrested after a vehicle stopped in Burgh Heath at about 10.20am. All were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance, and remain in police custody.

Animal Rising, an animal rights group which said it planned to “cancel or severely delay” the horse racing event in a bid to protect the animals, said: “Police heavy-handedness and intimidation tactics will not prevent a national conversation about our animals and the natural world

“It restates its commitment to protect horses and disrupt the Derby.”

Superintendent Michael Hodder of Surrey Police said: “We have been clear in our approach that criminal activity will not be tolerated at the Epsom Derby Festival.

“As a result of intelligence, we have arrested 19 people who we believe were intent on illegally disrupting today’s events.

“Our officers will be at the event throughout the day to continue in keeping the public safe and preventing criminality.”

Animal Rising activists were previously apprehended by police officers as they attempted to invade the race course during the Coral Scottish Grand National festival at Ayr Racecourse in April, while several more were arrested at the Grand National.

Claudia Penna Rojas, a protestor who was detained earlier this year at a similar protest at the Grand National, told Sky News she was prepared to break the law.

“If it means breaking the law, we know that law isn’t always equal to morality and we know that people have had to break laws throughout history to create the change that we need,” she said.

Surrey Police had warned it “will not tolerate” risks to public safety and that any criminal activity or risk to public safety will be met with “robust action”.

“The guiding principles of policing protests are the safety of protesters, the public and police officers involved, preventing criminal behaviour or disorder and de-escalating tensions,” a spokesperson for the force said

“We do not comment on officer numbers for operational reasons, but our officers are well-trained in responding to protests and will be on hand throughout the day to police the event.

“Where lawful, we will seek to facilitate peaceful protests.”

The Jockey Club which owns Epsom Downs has been granted a High Court injunction against Animal Rising, because it says the protest will endanger participants, racegoers and horses.

The injunction bans people from disrupting the races and walking on the track, and includes entering the parade ring, remaining on the horses’ route to the parade ring and going on to the racetrack without authorisation,

Those found to be in breach of court order could be fined or jailed.

Nevin Truesdale, chief executive of the Jockey Club, said security measures had been tightened up ahead of the event.

“Surrey Police have been and continue to be incredibly helpful and we will have a security operation in place at the Derby festival this weekend will be like no other we have seen in the past,” he said.

An area near the racecourse entrance was allotted for Animal Rising protesters to demonstrate peacefully.

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