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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 20:05 GMT
Rural Rebels 'put lives at risk'
Rural Rebels are blocked by a police cordon
A police cordon blocked the horseback protest
Countryside protesters behind a series of demonstrations have been warned they are putting lives at risk unless they change their "increasingly dangerous" tactics.

The claim came from a senior police officer in Edinburgh after a second day of action in the Scottish capital by the Rural Rebels.

They were prevented from riding horses up the Mound to the Scottish Parliament by a police cordon on Thursday.

But the group has hit back and accused the police of causing an "unnecessary confrontation" by putting up barricades.

The increasingly dangerous tactics used by the Rural Rebels must stop before someone - protester or innocent passer by - is seriously hurt

Assistant chief constable Ian Dickinson
About 100 horsemen and women tried to parade through part of central Edinburgh to highlight their complaints that most politicians are ignoring countryside interests.

The Rural Rebels - who oppose proposals for land reform and a ban on fox hunting - had travelled to Edinburgh from Berwick, Lauder, Dumfries and Stranraer.

However, they were blocked by police who said passers-by would be endangered and that permission for the event had not been sought.

Lothian and Borders Police's assistant chief constable, Ian Dickinson, said he and his colleagues were "seriously worried that death or great injury are a real possibility.

"We urge those involved in organising the events to stop taking risks with other people's lives."

Right to proceed

He said police resources had been taken away from other communities to deal with what he described as the "disruptive and dangerous" tactic of mass riding through city centre streets.

"The increasingly dangerous tactics used by the Rural Rebels must stop before someone - protester or innocent passer-by - is seriously hurt," he stressed.

However, the Rural Rebels maintained they had a right to proceed with their demonstration and accused the police of turning it into an "unnecessary confrontation".

Protesters outside Bute House
An earlier protest was held outside Bute House
A spokesman said: "Police were fully consulted and extra stewarding and safety demands met.

"One hundred and three horses and riders in seven groups from 42 villages assembled today for a peaceful ride to parliament to highlight their plight."

The stand-off between police and protesters came the day after a policeman was injured during a demonstration outside First Minister Jack McConnell's official residence.

Sergeant Alan Duffy suffered bruising to his foot when a smoke canister exploded outside Bute House on Wednesday.

The Rural Rebels, who are also protesting over the handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis, have staged several high profile campaigns in recent months.

BBC Scotland's Nigel Robson reports
"The protesters were unrepentant"
See also:

06 Feb 02 | Scotland
Protest at first minister's house
14 Dec 01 | Scotland
'Rural rebels' blockade border
08 Dec 01 | Scotland
Rural rebels take to the streets
03 May 01 | Scotland
Minister hears disease protest pleas
03 May 01 | Scotland
Woman defies pet sheep cull
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