British Newspaper Columnist Questioned

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(AP) Police arrested a columnist for Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper on suspicion that he stirred up racial hatred during a speech to a pro-fox hunting rally, the newspaper said Wednesday.

Robin Page, 61, who has since been released, was questioned Monday about remarks he allegedly made at a country fair at Frampton-upon-Severn in southwestern England on Sept. 6.

The newspaper said Page asked the gathering why, if Londoners had the right to run events, such as the Brixton carnival and gay pride marches, which celebrate black and gay culture, countryside people should not have the right to do what they liked at home, including fox hunting. The British government has promised to outlaw fox hunting with hounds, an issue that has polarized Britain.

Gloucestershire Police, without using Page’s name, said they had received a number of complaints after the speech and had arrested a “man” on suspicion of committing public order offenses. The arrested man — presumably Page — was not charged.

The newspaper said Page was released on police bail pending further inquiries. He was ordered to report to Stroud police station in Gloucestershire in January.

“All I said was that the rural minority should have the same rights as blacks, Muslims, and gays,” The Daily Telegraph quoted Page as saying. “What is wrong with that in a multicultural society? I said nothing that could possibly be interpreted as racist.”

Earlier this year, Prince Charles — an avid supporter of fox hunting — was quoted as saying that he agreed with a farmer in Cumbria who claimed that the farming community enjoyed less protection from discrimination than black or gay people.

Page, a well-known commentator on rural issues, had been invited to speak at the fair by the Countryside Alliance and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, which are fighting government plans to outlaw hunting with hounds.

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