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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 15:23 GMT
Apology for burning gypsy effigy
Firle bonfire night
The caravan tableau has led to a number of complaints of racism

The bonfire society which burned an effigy of a gypsy caravan has apologised for its actions.

Firle Bonfire Society issued a statement after the torching of the tableau sparked controversy and claims of racism.

The statement said: "Firle Bonfire Society wish to apologise unreservedly to anyone who has been caused any distress by what has happened.

"It was emphatically not a racist comment."

The chairman of the society was being questioned by Sussex Police on Monday.

Public Order Act

Richard Gravett met officers who are investigating the display and was questioned about whether any of the actions on the night breached race hate legislation.

Sussex Police said they received a number of complaints after the caravan with Gypsies painted on it and the number plate P1KEY was towed through the town and then torched.

The bonfire society has denied racism and said that during the summer travellers had moved onto privately owned land and the effigy was a symbolic reminder of the events.

Other figures such as President Bush and Osama Bin Laden had also been burned in the past, the society said.

But the gypsy effigy has been condemned by the Commission for Racial Equality.

Chief superintendent Paul Pearce, said: "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. "

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

Bonfire sparks complaints of racism
30 Oct 03  |  Southern Counties
Gypsy effigies burnt on bonfire
28 Oct 03  |  Southern Counties

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