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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 November, 2004, 23:46 GMT
Defiant protest misses targets
By Matthew Davis
BBC News in Windsor

Protest at Windsor
There was a French flavour to the protest in honour of Jacques Chirac

Hunt supporters sent a defiant signal that they will resist a hunting ban by picketing dignitaries arriving for a reception with the Queen at Windsor Castle.

Nearly 1,000 people gathered at Cambridge Gate sounded klaxons and hunting horns and waved placards urging: "Fight prejudice, fight the ban".

Protesters had hoped to turn their anger on Prime Minister Tony Blair, rumoured to be arriving at the entrance.

They had also intended to show the Queen's guest of honour, French President Jacques Chirac, that as a hunt supporter he was more welcome than a UK leader.

But a major police operation was in action to take the sting out of the protest.

The Queen and French President Jacques Chirac
Mr Chirac arrived at the banquet by a quieter route
Protesters had to settle for a convoy of indistinguishable guests who arrived several hours into the noisy but rain-hit protest.

Police were anxious to avoid the bloody clashes with pro-hunt demonstrators that took place in Parliament Square on 15 September.

Mr Chirac entered the castle by another route, as did Mr Blair.

When egg throwing greeted the arrival of one official car, police made only a polite request for calm through the organisers.

Demonstrators from all over the country brought a splash of colour to Windsor, many wearing traditional green tweed jackets, flat caps and boots.

Organiser Felix Gummer, son of former Tory Environment Secretary John Gummer, told BBC News that, despite the lack of an obvious target on the night, he was happy with the message being sent out.

This is not the end of the campaign, it is the beginning
Valerie Allfrey, North Ledbury Hunt
"We think this is the most effective way to take our views directly to ministers," he said.

"With what has happened today [in Parliament] we are at the stage where we are going to have to carry on hunting in defiance."

The Countryside Alliance now plans a two-pronged challenge to the ban on hunting.

It says the Parliament Act used to force the ban through is unlawful and that the legislation contravenes human rights law.

Many demonstrators said they had signed petitions pledging to break the law to carry on hunting when the ban comes into force.

Valerie Allfrey of the North Ledbury Hunt in Worcestershire said: "This is not the end of the campaign, it is the beginning.

"We have committed to carry on regardless - we are prepared to be arrested for doing what we believe."




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