Four arrested after Extinction Rebellion protest at Ascot aimed at the Queen

The climate change activists say they had ‘no other choice’ but to disrupt the event

Leonie Chao-Fong
Monday 21 June 2021 14:20
<p>An XR protestor is escorted from the racecourse during the races</p>

An XR protestor is escorted from the racecourse during the races

Four protesters linked to the Extinction Rebellion climate change movement were arrested after chaining themselves to running rails at the Royal Ascot.

Activists unfurled a banner with the slogan ‘Racing to Extinction’ following the opening race on Saturday, the final day of the races.

As security scrambled to remove the banner, they realised the demonstrators had shackled themselves to the railings and glued to the banner. A screen was erected while the they were removed.

The four protesters, who were dressed as catering staff, are understood to have been employed at Royal Ascot and were later revealed to be linked to Extinction Rebellion.

In a statement, the group said action had been taken to send a direct message to the Queen – who was attending the Berkshire meet for the first time since 2019 – to intervene in influencing environmental policy.

Extinction rebellion protestors at the racecourse during the races

On Sunday the police confirmed that all four protesters are in custody while a representative of Ascot described the incident as “minor” and acknowledged the activists “were never intending to cause any harm”.

A police statement read: “Thames Valley Police is aware of a protest which took place yesterday at Ascot racecourse. Officers who were on duty at the scene were able to quickly disrupt the protest, and four people have been arrested. They are currently in police custody.

“No one at the racecourse was in any danger at any point, and the day’s events were able to continue with minimal disruption.”

The actions on Saturday by the Extinction Rebellion activists echoed those by the suffragette Emily Davidson, who in 1913 died after attempting to attach a flag to the King’s horse during the Epsom Derby.

One of the protesters, Sam Smithson, said:  “I’m really sorry to be disrupting this event, but unfortunately, like suffragette Emily Davison, we have been left with no other choice, as we are running out of time in the race to tackle the climate and ecological emergency.

“We can’t negotiate with each other or nature for more time by carbon offsetting, whilst also promoting infinite growth on a finite planet and chopping down our ancient woodlands.”

In a statement released after the protest, Extinction Rebellion said it had been started 15 minutes before the next race to avoid any injury to jockeys or horses.

They called on the Queen to use her influence “to tell the truth and act now on the climate and ecological emergency”.

Nick Smith, Director of Racing & Public Affairs at Ascot, said: “It was a minor incident, quickly dealt with by the police and our own teams. It barely got noticed.

“The positive point is how quickly it was dealt with. These protesters were never intending to cause any harm, all they’d have brought on site with them was a banner. We had a plan in place and it was dealt with efficiently and with no delay.”