AN ANIMAL rights protester claims she was knocked to the ground while demonstrating outside the Spirit Of The Horse show on York's Knavesmire.

Sarah Ford claimed that a woman driver drove towards her and a friend and they had to stand back to avoid being hit.

She said a man then leant out of the car's window, shouted abuse and threw a bottle of coke at her, before pushing her to the ground.

The aftermath of the incident was captured on video by fellow members of the pressure group York Action For Animals (YAFA). The footage shows the car coming out of Knavesmire and then a woman lying sprawling on the ground, while another demonstrator attempts to kick out at the car before tending to the woman.

Spirit Of The Horse featured performing horses, including Spanish dancing horses and Mongolian stunt riders.

Sarah, 31, said she was one of a number of members of YAFA who staged a peaceful and lawful demonstration outside the showground on Saturday and Sunday, aiming to make customers think twice before paying to go in to see the show.

She said members of the public stopped to ask about the demonstration, and many went away with leaflets and were shocked to hear that animal circuses were still allowed on council land.

"Many motorists driving past beeped their horns in support and gave YAFA the "thumbs-up" sign of support," she said.

But she claimed the driver of a circus lorry had driven towards demonstrators, stopping only a few feet short of them and then waved his fists at them.

And she said that a woman customer gave the demonstrators verbal abuse on the Saturday and then, while driving out of the showground on the Sunday, swerved to go straight at her and another demonstrator carrying a baby.

She said she had suffered cuts and bruises to her arms and legs after the incident, after which she had complained to police about the alleged assault.

YAFA spokesman Matthew Gibbons said: "If no charges are brought, then YAFA will fund a private prosecution of the people involved."

He called on City of York Council to reconsider its "outdated" policy of allowing circuses featuring horses on council-own land, saying they should be banned like wild animal circuses.

York city councillor Paul Barnard, who has launched a campaign to ban the sale and production of foie gras in Britain, called today for the council to extend its existing ban on animal circuses to include horses and dogs - "which for some bizarre reason remain exempt."

He said he backed the campaigners, adding: "I would have been on the demo myself had I not had council commitments."

A police spokesman said they were investigating after a woman alleged she had been assaulted by a male passenger in a car.

He added that police had earlier received a complaint from the circus about the demonstrators.

A council spokeswoman said it had a strict policy concerning the safety and appropriateness of local events.

"Attractions involving animals, other than horses or dogs, are not allowed on council-owned land," she said. "All shows that do involve horses or dogs are stringently regulated, and a council officer visits each event of this kind to independently check the animals' welfare."