“Stop labelling campaigners as extremists” – 600+ sign open letter

Scottish youths strike for the climate, during a global day of action, taking the day off school and educational establihments to protest the Government's inaction on the climate crisis, in Edinburgh, Scotland, 20th September 2019.

Climate march in Edinburgh, 20 September 2019. Photo: Sutton Hibbert

More than 600 people have signed an open letter to senior police officers calling for an end to the categorisation of political campaigning as “domestic extremism”.

The letter, coordinated by the police monitoring group, Netpol, urged the National Police Chiefs Council to take action before the end of the coronavirus crisis.

The signatories included the Green Party baroness Jenny Jones, who discovered that there was a file on her on the national domestic extremism database.

The letter was also signed by academics, lawyers, councillors, journalists and members of anti-fracking and other campaign groups.

It mentioned that at least 45 environmental activists had been referred to the Home Office anti-extremism programme, Prevent, from April 2016-March 2019, according to a recent investigation by The Times.

The letter said:

“It seems likely a large proportion [of those referred to Prevent] were involved in anti-fracking groups, even though as far back as December 2016, the Home Office insisted opposition to fracking is not an “indicator of vulnerability to radicalisation.”

It concluded:

“when we finally emerge from lockdown, it is inevitable campaigners will demand real changes to the way many of society’s problems are prioritised, from the NHS, housing and the climate emergency to military and security spending, social care and workers’ rights, that have been laid bare by the pandemic.

“Our fear is that campaigners will likely find themselves, once again, labelled as ‘extremists’ and become the renewed target for intensive surveillance by Britain’s political policing units.

“That is why we call on the National Police Chiefs Council to confirm, before the current crisis is over, that it will abandon completely the meaningless categorisation of legitimate political campaigning activities as ‘domestic extremism’.”

History of labelling

The 2016 Home Office statement on anti-fracking groups has not stopped environmental campaigners being included in anti-extremism documents.

In January 2020, a Home Office minister admitted that counter-terrorism police in south east England should not have labelled the climate campaign group, Extinction Rebellion, as an extremist ideology.

Her comments were prompted by a Guardian report which revealed that Extinction Rebellion had been included in a 12-page guide on who should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent programme.

The document, labelled official, flagged young people taking part in non-violent direct action, such as sit-down protests, banner drops or “writing environmentally-themed graffiti.” Police later said the inclusion of Extinction Rebellion was an error of judgement and the guide had been recalled.

This was one of the most recent example of environmental and anti-fracking campaigners being labelled by police as domestic extremists that go back at least five years.

Surrey County Council used the term “extremism”  for anti-fracking protests during a training course for staff in autumn 2019.

Police Scotland’s annual police plan for 2017/2018 referred to anti-fracking protesters and hunt saboteurs under a section on domestic extremism threats whose activities required detection and disruption. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said she did not consider opponents of fracking to be extremists.

In 2016, we reported on official anti-extremism advice that included anti-fracking groups used in Yorkshire, Merseyside, Dorset and Sussex .

Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion and a former Green Party leader, said that footage of her arrest for peaceful protest against fracking was used in Prevent training sessions in 2015.



38 replies »

  1. I would not call the extinction rebellion statement below democratic, I call it antisocial behavior & law beaking as if they were vigilantes hiding behind there so called cause.

    There is a democratic process in this country which recognises the environment & has long term policies in place to effect the agreed environmental outcome by 2050 & the UK government are in many ways leading the way forward.

    *Extinction Rebellion is a global environmental movement with the stated aim of using nonviolent civil disobedience to compel government action to avoid tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse*.

    They would be seen in a far better light by all if they engaged constructively with the democratic process without taking vigilante actions as they don’t like some of the method being used to help the world environment but still keep the world & it’s economies running through the changes.

  2. Seems a strange misuse of language.

    If an individual decides to use extreme methods, by definition they are an extremist! No suggestion, surely, that extreme methods have NOT been used by some anti fracking protestors? Think it is called defined by association, which has been encouraged, even though a few antis have shown concern for that. Too late now.

    Don’t think anyone will be too interested in changing English language because a few are miffed.

    Of course, there are extremists who are non violent and those who are, so sub categories are needed to separate. But, to attempt to change simple English to fit the sensitivities of a few is just too extreme.

    Extremist is fairly tame compared to the other words I have heard used descriptively.

  3. Extreme sitting down? Perhaps Extreme prayers at site entrances maybe Extreme tea and cake ? Please people don’t confuse peaceful activists with Bin Laden even though you think that banner wavers should know better.

    • Or, extreme motoring around the motorways, south of London, in the middle of the night looking for “cakes”, (how damaging for the environment) just happening to have an anti fracking banner in your vehicle and just happening to find a drilling rig on its way to NOT frack but still deciding to sit on it and protest against that activity preventing the vehicle from doing what it was not going to do?

      Extreme is the polite way of describing that. Certainly NOT a legal right to protest in that way, KatT.

      As I stated, of course, there are extremists who are non violent, and certainly not terrorists, but do protest in an extreme and illegal way. So, what is the issue?

      And KatT, well you made some good points until you became carried away at the end. “Most” are not that well supported by history. Certainly some, but not most. So, that is a poor argument, to imply that in all cases it has subsequently been seen to be okay, because it has not.

    • Jono

      You evidentially twist the words for your own purpose.

      If you sit in the middle of a road used for buisness blocking it or climbing on lorries it is extreme, disruptive & a form of gorrilla warfare.

      It is not like sitting & having afternoon tea moaning on is it?

      I think peaceful protest should be allowed by groups with membership & appropriate regulations applied with groups & people identifiable & held accountable for there actions & any misconduct or breach of the law.

      All buisnesses & organizations have to abide by rules & regulations so why not protestors & activists who want to be radicle?

      If this was the case I think that protesters may find there cause better served.

  4. I think some are missing the point. There are existing laws that permit protest and it is recognised by the courts that protest can result in disruption and inconvenience to some. There are also powers available to the police to control and manage demonstrations. And the police can arrest, detain and charge individuals if an arrestable offence is committed during the course of a protest. The Prevent Strategy was introduced as a counter terrorism measure. It was never intended, as confirmed by government, to be used against people exercising their democratic and legal right to protest. Whilst some may disagree with the disruption caused, or disagree with the tactics employed or even the cause, the protests that have taken place could never be deemed terrorism. That is the issue. To treat environmental protestors as terrorists under Prevent is an abuse of power and a misuse of the strategy.
    It is worth reflecting that many many of the rights and freedoms we all enjoy today, including the right to vote, were won through hard fought civil opposition, protests and civil disobedience. History shows that most of those that fought and protested in the past were vilified at the time but are looked upon very differently in time.

    Click to access prevent-strategy-review.pdf

  5. I would have thought any person conspiring with others to knowingly cause fear and inflict property damage on citizens of England would be guilty of some crime or other.
    That’s a pretty large net that should catch plenty of big fish.

  6. You mean like the RAF, Peter? Or traffic? Or the Tube? Or HS2? Or Crossrail?

    The sensible people, that the UK is full of, (indeed a majority in terms of the maths.) recognise that there are many situations where they accept certain discomforts for the sake of the greater good. Others take a different view, some an extreme different view, so, by definition some of those will rightly be referred to as extremists. Some, who do not take an extreme view can still have that different view and not be termed extremists.

    Difficulty with such, is that for decades extremists have found situations to exploit within groups and then the group is associated with them.

    Just like the way the antis try and associate bog standard drilling for oil on land as “fracking”, then for the same reasons, others will associate groups with a few individuals.

  7. Let’s then categorise the oil and gas industry as extremists because they are the major contributors to extreme climate change, air, ground and water pollution globally, which leads to extreme crop failures and starvation for many people across the planet, if allowed to continue the way they are.

    We could easily call the UK government extremists because they willing supply arms to Saudi Arabia, knowing they are murdering innocent citizens in Yemen and causing the world’s worst famine.

    Calling peaceful, democratic protest extreme in the UK is extreme hyperbole and laughable. But then what would you expect from a state that is headed by a buffoon who thinks it’s great to boast about shaking hands with Coronavirus patients, contract it himself, lie about testing and inadequate PPE for frontline healthcare workers.

    • DPNP

      You have the right to form your own political party or stand for parlement under one of the existing parties & follow a democratic process where this country is governed by consent.

      If you chose to do this you will need the support of the majority behind you taking account of many issues & responsibilities in this country not just one issue & no accountability for the consequences.

      • MH, I am fully aware of that, but what is your point?

        You think people want to starve, breathe polluted air, die from COVID19, accelerate extreme climate change to the detriment of themselves, their loved ones and fellow humans across the globe?

        I would say the majority of people in this country are quite sane and would not want that, regardless of what government is in power and what it does.

        Given the right opportunity people can cooperate with each other and do many things together to benefit their local economy, environment, health and wellbeing. If the government doesn’t deliver than people will not be able to rely on it and we have seen already mutual aid groups spring up all over this country and around the world.

        You rob people of their land and their ability to live independent, self sustaining lives, supported by strong, healthy local communities, then you have problems.

  8. That was an extreme load of nonsense, DPNP.

    As I clearly stated to Peter, some have found they can exploit particular groups for their own ends. Those groups then become tagged with a label that represents that.

    Well done, DPNP.

    You have to be a real piece of work to suggest someone who contracts Covid-19 is a buffoon for doing so. My son works in the NHS contracted Covid-19 and is no buffoon. He has now returned to working in the NHS.

    Well done, again, DPNP.

    • As usual MC being the disingenuous fool for the government.

      I never said people were buffoons for contracting the virus. BodgeJob Johnson was a buffoon even before he was voted as our glorious clown leader. His idiotic boasting of shaking hands with Coronavirus patients was just that. If you think it’s sensible to not social distance and deliberately shake hands with Coronavirus patients then more fool you.

      I have a close family member who is already immunocompromised and works in the NHS and is being put at risk. If she contracts it there is little chance she will recover. And she, as well as many healthcare workers, think Bojo and his s#*t shower of a government are irresponsible clowns too.

      Well done for bigging up the inexcusable!

  9. There I was believing the antis believed in democracy!

    I think you will find DPNP that the majority voted for this Government-by a big margin. Which would have resulted in an even bigger margin of seats if constituencies had been re-organised as should have happened.

    But, you imply you know how Boris contracted Covid-19. No, you don’t, that is just speculation moving to fabrication. My son did NOT contract Covid-19 within the NHS although he works within it.

    You need to contact the Pope and get some of the saints redefined as buffoons, DPNP! Including Jesus.

    Well done again, DPNP.

    My wife is immunocompromised and is therefore declared extremely vulnerable and required to be shielded. Strange that system has not applied to your close family member. Perhaps if she has fallen through the net she should take steps to get the situation corrected? We found the system to be very efficient, apart from a bit of disagreement between Consultants and GPs-but, that is nothing new. “Boris Boxes” were a point of light for us for a number of weeks. Never used toilet paper before that needed 5 folds to do the job-but trial and error soon sorted that out!
    Oh, by the way, I know many healthcare workers who did vote for Boris, and are still very happy with Boris, and most recent Polls show they are in good and extensive company. Not quite so good for the media however in the Polls.
    Seems the large sensible lot in the UK are more supportive of those attempting to do a good job in difficult circumstances than those doing their best to make it more difficult. Not too strange really. That is the way most of the large sensible lot get through their own lives.

    No, I am no fool- and neither do I refer to the UK as “a state”. But, some seem to be unhappy with what they are called. Never bothered me. Usually says more about the caller than the recipient.

    • Again MC you make invalid assumptions about what I said, (why on earth you are making out saints as buffoons out of all this I don’t know but maybe some of them were? Irrelevant). I said he boasted about shaking hands with Coronavirus patients as if this was a perfectly sensible thing to do, it wasn’t. Anyone in their right mind could see that was a dumb thing to boast about. So that in itself was stupid in the light of what was happening across the world and in other parts of Europe.

      Whether he contracted it from that reckless episode or later on is another question. However, judging by past performance, when alarms were going off across Europe and preparations were being made he and the government were typically dismissive and unprepared.

      My immunocompromised family member is not alone and far from it. We are hoping she is continuing to make a rapid recovery and won’t be that way for much longer and is protected, thankfully. Many aren’t! However, she is dedicated to her job, helping people. Because of 10 years of government underfunding of the NHS her position is a vitally important one in an overstretched, understaffed, and demoralised department.

      The NHS are doing an amazing job under the circumstances, but no thanks to the government.

      It would seem that that previous misguided electoral confidence in Bojo is now just polling at 36% who trust him over Coronavirus. Hardly surprising is it, even despite all the mainstream corporate media propaganda and brainwashing? Or are people not allowed to change their minds? That would be rather fascistic in a so-called democracy wouldn’t it? Maybe they might be called “traitors” by certain Bojo supporters…?

      • So, if Boris had isolated as soon as the virus arrived in UK, the media and the public would have praised him for that? Very funny.

        Can’t quite see your logic reference your immunocompromised family member. She should have been identified by the NHS as such and have been instructed to Shield. That same NHS should continue to pay her whilst she is Shielding and should NOT allow her to keep working. As I suggested, if somehow she has slipped through that net she should contact her managers to have the situation remedied. Apart from her own well being, it would not help the NHS to have another case in the ICU which could have been avoided. You talk about being unprepared but that is one situation where the preparation was really good. If some then ignore that preparation how is that any different to your criticism of Boris?

        Reference to the recent polling that is simply the reaction from some who suddenly become “expert” in Covid-19 and think they could do a better job-until asked in real time, not retrospectively, what they would do differently! Wonder if some of them in Liverpool will be so happy keeping their schools closed when they are told the same would need to apply to Anfield, so the title will be lost! But, other schools not too far from Liverpool I know are preparing to open in June. Not easy, but doable, according to the Principal of one school I have as a close family relative. Most of her job is about that, with or without Covid-19. Similarly, my other son has been back working on a building site for 3 weeks now, and he is in exactly the same position-not easy, but doable. It will take a while for the not easy so can’t be done brigade to come around. That has been shown in other countries already.

        Must move on. Have wifey’s meds. to order on line from the Surgery. Again, really good preparation there for the Shielded group.

        • MC, she is protected, as I said earlier. However, she still has to support her department in her recovering state because, like many areas of the NHS, it is underfunded and understaffed. She is thankfully making a recovery whilst working remotely. However, she was being put at risk before she had to be protected, as a result of her becoming immunocompromised.

          Thanks to her persistence, her overstretched and underpaid colleagues have only recently acquired full PPE!

          Many staff in the NHS have not been properly protected, and could have spread the virus. However, they are putting their lives at risk to help save others who are actually dying. If they all gave up because of the lack of PPE more people would succumb, yet more vital NHS staff have died unnecessarily as a result. What choice did they have?

          Only last week my friend’s elderly father, who is riddled with cancer, had care workers turn up to his home without PPE! Again, because the government was slow to act on it and bodged it.

          Essential workers needed essential PPE well before lockdown.

          Allowing inadequately protected, non-essential workplaces to open now will only allow a second spike and even greater prolonged misery, common sense will tell you that. Great timing, as usual, from the government, releasing full employment guidelines several days after people were expected to go back to work! Even Dominic Raab was confused about the guidelines that Monday morning.

          Amazing you are gullible enough to swallow all the BS that the government has done a “good job” when we have the highest death toll in Europe. Particularly when you compare how quickly other countries reacted to dramatically reduce needless deaths, notably NZ, S. Korea, Taiwan, Germany. They were proactive whilst this government were arrogantly dismissing the reality, then having to react to the unfolding crisis before their eyes.

          • So, once all the world was desperately trying to get PPE in quantities never considered, UK would always be at the front of the queue??


            You do post a great deal of nonsense, based upon absolutely nothing!

            Highest death toll in Europe? Are you sure? I would wait until the final assessment as all countries are recording somewhat differently. Of course UK will be at the high end due to the age profile and population numbers, population density and levels of visitors from the source of the infection.

            Proactive? Yes, you can be that once you have a high testing capacity. Most of the countries you mention already had that within their industrial base. UK could test 2000/day only a few weeks ago. NZ is interesting. Ever been? I have. Very tight border controls and very low population density. Absolutely ideal starting point. UK is the exact opposite. And yet, during the debate in the HOC yesterday quite a few wished not only to maintain that but magnify it!

            You talk about a “good job”. Well, a good job has to be related to the circumstances and the situation, not looked at as if every country and every area is the same. You can look at USA in that respect. Has New York done a bad job and other areas/states a good job? Which would mean the Democrats are useless and Donald will get four more years, by your reckoning.

            Oh, and I notice Liverpool FC are allowed back training today! Yet, the level of infection in Liverpool is too high for schools to start to take a few more children? Good to see the priority! LOL.

            I would suggest accept the “extremist” tag. It could be a lot worse. Some may notice your relative was working in the NHS on 16 May and is being put at risk, and then on the 18 May was making a full recovery whilst working remotely. I hope it is the latter. But, it is not both.

  10. Ha Ha So they Don.t Like being called Extremist.. Oh dear… Maybe the oil & gas Explorers. Don,t Like being called frackers Even When there is No fracking involved… Talk about pan calling kettle.

    • MC the UK has a population nearly 14x that of NZ but had almost 1,650x more confirmed COVID-19 deaths than NZ. It’s not just having the infamous title of 2nd highest death toll in the world after the US, it’s the litany of mistakes, dithering and mixed messaging the government sends, that has contributed to this unnecessary death toll. You need to step outside your ridiculous political bias and face reality. It’s obvious that densely packed cities would see the highest spread, but the added disaster for the US is that poorer people cannot afford healthcare and are forced to work to survive, even if they have COVID19. Yet certain members of our government want to ape the U.S. basket case, as usual, with wholesale privatisation. Next they’ll be advocating Miracle Mineral Solution (aka industrial bleach) ingested or injected as advocated by the deranged orange POTUS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxDKW75ueIU

      It was only a couple of weeks ago Bodge Job had the audacity to say “we have avoided the tragedies other countries have suffered” whilst we were clearly already in a tragedy and rapidly approaching Italy’s death toll – a country which gave us ample warning of what needed to be done to prepare for the worst. Is he that deluded and blinded by his ego – for that matter, most of this government – that they think we’re all that brainwashed to not see the reality and they are talking absolute tosh like you, as usual. Let’s not forget the genius wasp, Petty Patel’s statement that crime was down whilst we were in a police state lockdown – no sh*! and now we have her latest Orwellian double think gem, “We’re ending Free Movement to Open Britain Up…” whilst we’re now so desperate for EU migrant workers to come back to pick our fruit and veg and become frontline worker’s in our underfunded and understaffed NHS, after years of making them feel decidedly unwelcome. Then we have Hancock showing how much he cares and values the NHS with his tiny care badge and refusing not to rule out pay freezes for NHS staff.

      Maybe Bodge Job thought we were safe as an island, separated from the rest of Europe and if connected countries like Germany can get it under control then we can just “take it on the chin”. It was only last week they finally announced a strict 14 day quarantine for people arriving in the UK (except the Irish and maybe the French), but as Michael O’Leary rightly pointed out (and I am no fan of his) what makes these people so special and how idiotic is that? They’ve only recently changed that because it was idiotic – but as per usual had to have it pointed out to them, often by the sensible general public!

      It’s not just the usual suspects who think the gov is a shambles, take a look at those very “lefty” publications like the Financial Times here: https://www.ft.com/content/9680c20f-7b71-4f65-9bec-0e9554a8e0a7 and The Times here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-times-view-on-the-government-response-to-coronavirus-time-for-leadership-0hqntr0h9

      Mea Culpa, I see where you got confused – I was typing on my mobile intermittently on the 16th, got distracted and posted. My family member WAS being put at risk (that was several months ago incidentally) – however, i think of her as still being at risk, as you do when you care for a loved one who has gone through that operation, even if she is working for the NHS from home as best she can. She won’t be sending her 2 dependent children to school until it is safe to do so and rightly so.

      [Edited by moderator]

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