Police have defended their inclusion of environmental groups such as Extinction Rebellion in counter-terrorism documents, in the face of criticism it could have a “chilling effect” on people.
The Guardian reported that a 24-page policing document it had seen included Greenpeace, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and other non-violent groups, as well as extremist right-wing proscribed groups such as National Action.
It said the document was distributed to teachers and medical staff as part of anti-extremism briefings last year.
Deputy assistant commissioner Dean Haydon, senior national co-ordinator for the UK’s Counter Terrorism Policing, said legitimate protest groups had been included in order to inform and guide frontline officers.
He insisted police do not consider such groups to be extremist or a threat to national security.
A signs and symbols guide, also referred to by the Guardian, shows a Nazi swastika in one section and the Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace symbols in another.
Haydon said the guide referred to is aimed at helping police “identify and understand signs and symbols” so they know the difference between them.
Extinction Rebellion, which is a worldwide environmental campaign movement, questioned its inclusion in the documentation.
“This is nothing short of pointing a finger at anyone that thinks differently to ‘business as usual’ – which is taking humanity to its grave – and lumping them all together,” the group said in a statement on its website.
“The chilling effect is to leave people feeling under scrutiny, watched and pressurised, feeling othered, ashamed or afraid to be open about the things they care about such as the environment and the world around us.”
Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said the group’s inclusion on the list is “massive state overreach and threatens our right to political engagement and peaceful protest”.
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “Tarring environmental campaigners and terrorist organisations with the same brush is not going to help fight terrorism. It will only harm the reputation of hard-working police officers.”
In a statement tweeted out on 17 January, Haydon said: “The guidance document in question explicitly states that many of the groups included are not of counter-terrorism interest, and that membership of them does not indicate criminality of any kind.
“To suggest anything else is both unhelpful and misleading.”
He said the document has been used by Prevent – a government programme which aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism – but “only as a guide to help them (Prevent) identify and understand the range of organisations practitioners might come across”.
Last week Counter Terror Police South East admitted it had made an “error of judgment” by including Extinction Rebellion in a list of extremist organisations in an official report.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?