Anti-fracking campaigns have been listed alongside terrorist organisations, including the IRA, Al Qaeda and ISIL, in official counter-extremist documents from four regions of the UK.
Shale gas opponents in York said today they are shocked that local police had identified them as a terrorism threat, alongside the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK.
Evidence collected by Russell Scott, a researcher and campaigner with Frack Free Yorkshire, has revealed that the counter-terrorism strategy in York included a key risk from anti-fracking activity, as well as terrorist groups opposed to Israel and Palestine.
Writing on the SpinWatch website, Mr Scott also published documents from Merseyside, Dorset and West Sussex which made the same connection between domestic extremism and fracking. His research follows reporting by DrillOrDrop about challenges made to these links by a police monitoring group, a peer and two opponents of shale gas operations.
“Anti-fracking protesters in Yorkshire deserve praise not stigmatisation”
Today Lars Kramm, a Green councillor on York City Council, said:
“I am shocked to hear that York’s peaceful and creative opposition to the governments energy and climate agenda is now classed as terrorism.
“I have long campaigned alongside communities in the fight to stop fracking, stay on a renewable way to flight climate change and protect our rural communities from the threat of industrialisation.
“The majority of people and councillors in York share the grave environmental concerns raised by campaigners and local residents. Anti-fracking protesters in Yorkshire and across the country deserve praise for their actions, not legal proceedings and stigmatization as terrorists.”
Large parts of York are open for shale gas exploration. To the north of the city, most of Ryedale district, which includes Third Energy’s fracking site at Kirby Misperton, has been licensed. There are also licences covering much of the East Riding of Yorkshire and parts of Scarborough district. South of York, much of Wakefield, Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield, Rotherham and Bassetlaw have been licensed for hydrocarbon exploration, mostly targeting shale.
“Key risks” to York
The document from City of York Council, published a year ago, describes the way in which officers are delivering Prevent, the Government’s multi-agency counter-extremism strategy. (A web link to the document stopped working on 6/12/16)
Under a section headed Local picture of need, the document says:
“The Counter Terrorism Local Profile for York and North Yorkshire highlights the key risks to York as evidence of activity relating to Syria, presence of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), Anti Israeli/pro Palestinian activity, Hunt saboteurs, animal rights, anti-fracking and extreme right wing activity.”
It said York was a high priority for Prevent within the North Yorkshire police force area. The reasons given included its location on the main east coast railway line and because it has key historic buildings, military and student populations and large numbers of visitors.
Leigh Coghill, of Frack Free York, said:
“People opposed to fracking are just ordinary peaceful residents come from all walks of life, that share concerns about the environmental and economic downsides of fracking.
“They have opposed specific planning applications and government policy through written objections, talking to people including our elected representatives, and completely peaceful demonstrations in very close liaison with the police, with whom we have an excellent relationship with.
“The large protest we organised in July was completely peaceful. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any link with violence or terrorism.”
Ian Conlan, from Frack Free Ryedale, who lives five miles from Kirby Misperton, said:
“The Prevent strategy should focus on preventing terrorism and not the peaceful expressions of legitimate opinions and campaigning, which includes the right to protest.”
Download the pdf document here: York Prevent Strategy
Apology from Driffield
Kirby Misperton is about 30 miles from Driffield in East Yorkshire, where the local secondary school listed anti-fracking campaigners alongside Islamic State in counter-terrorism advice for parents.
DrillOrDrop reported this extract for Driffield School and Sixth Form newsletter:
“At present nationally, the greatest resource is devoted to preventing people from joining or supporting the so called Islamic State (IS) group, its affiliates and related groups. More locally, the East Riding’s main priorities are far right extremism, animal rights and anti-fracking.”
Since then, the school and East Riding of Yorkshire Council gave this statement:
“In delivering Prevent training to its schools, the council uses a Home Office training script. This includes a reference to ‘environmental terrorism’ and some audiences have asked if this includes anti-fracking. In response to that, we make it clear that we do not regard anti-fracking campaigners as an appropriate group to monitor as part of the Prevent strategy.”
The head of Driffield School, Diane Pickering, also made an apology:
“Prevent training requires schools and public organisations to be aware of all forms of extremism, but it is not the view of the school that anti-fracking is a form of extreme behaviour and we apologise that the link has been made.”
But documents from other parts of the country, uncovered by Russell Scott, suggest that other councils and police forces do hold this view.
Merseyside Special Branch presentation
Merseyside Police Special Branch gives a presentation to schools, governors, colleges and childcare providers.
In it, anti-fracking activities are listed as a type of extremism. The presentation lists them on the same presentation slide as extreme right and left wing groups, republican and loyalist groups linked to Northern Ireland and animal rights activists.
Russell Scott said the same presentation was used by Sefton Council.
Dorset: “potential for violent acts”
In June this year, Dorset updated its strategy on preventing violent extremism. In a section on the county’s specific risks it said:
“Dorset is not adjudged by the Government to be a high priority area for Prevent activities; however the threats faced by the local community are no different to those faced by the rest of the UK.”
It identified the threat of radicalisation from Da’esh (also known as IS or ISIL) and far right wing extremists. On the same page it added:
“In rural Dorset issues such as the badger cull and possible “fracking” may also see form of extremism with the potential for violent acts to be committed.”
All of Purbeck District and the borough of Poole in Dorset are licensed for oil exploration, along with small parts of neighbouring districts.
Worthing Primary School: Fracking campaigns listed with Al Quaeda
Chesswood Junior School in Worthing, West Sussex, published its Prevent policy in July this year.
It defined radicalisation as “the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with any terrorist groups”. It then listed examples:
“eg Far Right, Far Left, Environmental (Fracking), Animal Rights, Nationalist (IRA), Al Qaeda.”
The document continued:
“This policy has been written to ensure all members of staff at Chesswood Junior School:
“recognise that radicalisation can take many forms in line with a wide variety of causes, all of which, at the extreme end, would present safeguarding concerns for any child regardless of cause e.g. Far Right, Far Left, Environmental (Fracking), Animal Rights, Nationalist (IRA), Al Qaeda.”
There were anti-fracking protests at Balcombe in West Sussex in 2013. Balcombe is about 30 miles from Worthing, which has no exploration licences.