Extract: "The incident has raised suspicions among rural campaigners that the police are under political pressure to snuff out any demonstration outside the Winter Gardens that might prove embarrassing for Tony Blair."
October 01, 2002

Labour Conference

Police round up pro-hunt protesters


By Russell Jenkins
 
 
 
FIVE hunt activists, including a retired bank manager, a middle-aged businessman and a master of beagles, accused the police yesterday of using heavy-handed tactics to thwart a planned pro-hunting demonstration outside the Labour Party conference.
The protesters, members of Countryside Action Network, a mainstream lobbying group, complain that they were rounded up by armed police at dawn on Sunday in a pub car park in the village of Wesham, near Kirkham, as they were preparing banners for a protest meeting to be held later in the day.

They say that they were ambushed by about 15 officers, each armed and protected with body armour, and told they were being arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit violent disorder. Each was then driven in a separate vehicle to Blackpool and Fleetwood police stations, where they were held in cells for up to eight hours and questioned before before being released without charge.

Meanwhile the planned demonstration, left leaderless, broke up in disarray. Those arrested, four men and one woman, are considering pursuing legal action against Lancashire police for wrongful arrest and imprisonment.

The incident has raised suspicions among rural campaigners that the police are under political pressure to snuff out any demonstration outside the Winter Gardens that might prove embarrassing for Tony Blair.