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Saturday, July 11, 1998 Published at 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK


14 held after protest ban

Demo called off on Friday

Police arrested 14 animal rights protesters after an exclusion zone was placed around an Oxfordshire town where campaigners planned to hold a rally.

Officers imposed a five-mile exclusion zone around Witney to prevent anti-vivisection activists gathering at the same time as a local carnival.

[ image: Hill Grove Farm: the protesters' target]
Hill Grove Farm: the protesters' target
The protesters were arrested at various checkpoints on the exclusion zone which was granted on Friday night by the Home Secretary after a request by police and the local council.

Thames Valley Police said the exclusion zone was necessary because the Witney Carnival was due to take place simulatneously nearby and they feared trouble could break out if the rally went ahead.

In recent months demonstrators at Hill Grove Farm have been involved in angry clashes with police.

Assistant Chief Constable Robert Davies said: "The aim of the exclusion order is to prevent known animal rights activists from breaking the law and using violence and extreme intimidation to achieve their aims."

Police said a total of 14 people had been arrested, mainly for public order offences, breaching the exclusion order at Witney or for previous alleged offences at Hill Grove.

[ image: Oxfordshire - Witney was out of bounds to protesters]
Oxfordshire - Witney was out of bounds to protesters
The crowd of activists, estimated by police as 300-strong, reassembled on foot on the outskirts of Oxford with the intention of protesting outside the physiology department of Oxford University where, they claim, cats are used in medical tests.

Up to 1,000 animal rights campaigners had been expected to gather in Witney to hear speeches before marching to nearby Hill Grove Farm, which breeds cats for medical experiments.

But rally organisers denied that their action would have interfered with the carnival.

John Wadham, director of campaign group Liberty, called police actions "disproportionate".

He said: "The use of these provisions to ban demonstrations interfered with the fundamental rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression and is unjustified.

"Liberty will offer services to all those affected to challenge this order in the courts in this country and in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg."

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