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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 18:26 GMT
Bonfire sparks complaints of racism
Firle bonfire night
The caravan tableau has led to a number of complaints of racism
The burning of a caravan with Gypsies painted on it at a village bonfire party has led to a number of complaints of racism, Sussex Police have said.

A police spokesman confirmed on Thursday that there had been complaints, but declined to confirm how many had been made.

An investigation had already been launched after BBC South East Today revealed the shocked reactions of both the Commission for Racial Equality and residents in Firle.

The caravan, bearing the number plate P1KEY was towed through the street before being burnt.

A message on the caravan read: "Do as you likey Driveways Ltd - guaranteed to rip you off."

Bush 'given same treatment'

Firle Bonfire Society denied racism and said other figures such as the local police chief, President George Bush and Osama Bin Laden had been given the same treatment.

A statement on the Firle Bonfire Society website said: "During the summer, a number of travellers moved to privately owned farmland.

"It was some time before the landowner was able to reclaim the field.

"The tableau was a symbolic reminder of those events and called into question the way that the authorities dealt with the situation."

Chief superintendent Paul Pearce said: ""Recent events in the police service have highlighted the continual need for a positive anti-racist and anti-discrimination stance.

"Sussex Police is overtly hostile to those who discriminate on the grounds of race, religion, skin colour, sexual orientation, disability, gender, social class or any other inappropriate factor.

"A thorough investigation is already underway that will consider all the evidence available from the celebrations on Saturday evening in Firle.

"At the conclusion of the investigation, which we hope will be swift, we will submit a file to the Crown Prosecution Service for them to consider whether a criminal prosecution is pursued."

The BBC's Luisa Baldini
"The controversy is smouldering on"

Gypsy effigies burnt on bonfire
28 Oct 03  |  Southern Counties
Police investigate burning of effigies
29 Oct 03  |  Southern Counties

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