Nineteen activists have been arrested ahead of plans to disrupt the Epsom Derby on Saturday, police said.
The group Animal Rising accused Surrey Police of “abusing” their powers after the activists were arrested on Saturday morning based on intelligence received by officers.
A spokesman for the force said 11 people were arrested at addresses in Mitcham and Byfleet in the early hours and a further eight people were arrested after their vehicle was stopped on Canons Lane in Burgh Heath at around 10.20am.
It comes after activist group vowed to “cancel or severely delay” the race – despite a High Court injunction banning them from doing so.
Last week, the Jockey Club, which owns Epsom Downs, was granted the injunction against the group, claiming it had made “explicitly clear” it intended to breach security at the Surrey racecourse.
And on Friday, Surrey Police warned they “will not tolerate” risks to public safety after an Animal Rising member told Sky News she would do “what’s necessary”, including breaking the law, to protect the animals.
There was disruption at the Grand National at Aintree in April when the race was delayed by just over 10 minutes after demonstrators made their way on to the track and had to be removed by police.
In a defiant announcement following the arrests, Animal Rising said police would not stop them from disrupting the Derby.
They said: “Earlier this morning, at least 10 arrests were made by Surrey Police, allegedly in connection with the Epsom Derby.
“This comes after reports of facial recognition camera around Epsom Downs Racecourse.
“Police heavy-handedness and intimidation tactics will not prevent a national conversation about our animals and the natural world
“It restates its commitment to protect horses and disrupt the Derby.”
Superintendent Michael Hodder of Surrey Police said: “We have been clear in our approach that criminal activity will not be tolerated at the Epsom Derby Festival.
“As a result of intelligence, we have arrested 19 people who we believe were intent on illegally disrupting today’s events.
“Our officers will be at the event throughout the day to continue in keeping the public safe and preventing criminality.”
Jockey Club officials fear the protest will endanger participants, racegoers and horses, although they said they do not dismiss the right to peaceful protest and have offered Animal Rising an area near the racecourse’s entrance to demonstrate.
The injunction granted by High Court judge Sir Anthony Mann bans people from going on to the racetrack and carrying out other acts with the intention and/or effect of disrupting the races.
Those breaching the court order may be subject to contempt of court proceedings and fined or jailed.
Surrey Police have been approached for comment.