Protester storms racecourse as 31 activists arrested ahead of Epsom Derby

Activist tackled by police after storming the course  (Mike Egerton/PA Wire)
Activist tackled by police after storming the course (Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

A man has been arrested after running onto the racecourse at the Epsom Derby.

The activist managed to jump the fence before being tackled and handcuffed by police as the crowd jeered and booed.

Minutes later, a woman attempted to climb the fence but was pulled to the floor by police.

Despite pledges by activist group Animal Rising to “cancel or severely delay” the Derby, the race continued as planned shortly after the protesters were carried away.

Observers described the situation as “ludicrous” and “absolute insanity” while others thanked police for putting a stop to the protests.

It came after nineteen activists were arrested ahead of plans to disrupt the Epsom Derby on Saturday.

The group Animal Rising accused Surrey Police of “abusing” their powers after 31 people were arrested on Saturday morning based on intelligence received by officers.

A spokesman for Surrey Police said: “We can confirm that 31 people have been arrested in connection with planned criminal activity at the Epsom Derby Festival this afternoon.

“Eleven people were arrested at addresses in Mitcham and Byfleet in the early hours, following warrants based on intelligence received ahead of the Epsom Derby Festival. A further eight people were arrested after their vehicle was stopped on Canons Lane in Burgh Heath at around 10.20am this morning. All were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance and remain in police custody.

“A total of 12 people have been arrested within the Epsom Downs racecourse since the event began this morning, also in connection with planned criminal activity. One man was arrested after he ran onto the racetrack after a race had started. He was quickly removed by event security and police officers, meaning the race was not disrupted.”

Chief Superintendent Clive Davies said: “Our officers and event security responded quickly and decisively after a man ran onto the racetrack after a race had begun.

“We will not tolerate criminal behaviour which puts lives in danger, including those of the animals, jockeys, security staff and our officers.”

It comes after activist group vowed to “cancel or severely delay” the race – despite a High Court injunction banning them from doing so.

Last week, the Jockey Club, which owns Epsom Downs, was granted the injunction against the group, claiming it had made “explicitly clear” it intended to breach security at the Surrey racecourse.

And on Friday, Surrey Police warned they “will not tolerate” risks to public safety after an Animal Rising member told Sky News she would do “what’s necessary”, including breaking the law, to protect the animals.

There was disruption at the Grand National at Aintree in April when the race was delayed by just over 10 minutes after demonstrators made their way on to the track and had to be removed by police.

In a defiant announcement following the arrests, Animal Rising said police would not stop them from disrupting the Derby.

They said: “Earlier this morning, at least 10 arrests were made by Surrey Police, allegedly in connection with the Epsom Derby.

“This comes after reports of facial recognition camera around Epsom Downs Racecourse.

“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.”

Jockey Club officials fear the protest will endanger participants, racegoers and horses, although they said they do not dismiss the right to peaceful protest and have offered Animal Rising an area near the racecourse’s entrance to demonstrate.

The injunction granted by High Court judge Sir Anthony Mann bans people from going on to the racetrack and carrying out other acts with the intention and/or effect of disrupting the races.

Those breaching the court order may be subject to contempt of court proceedings and fined or jailed.

Surrey Police have been approached for comment.