Who hasn’t criticised our system of government in recent years? Are we all extremists?
Extinction Rebellion (XR) has reacted angrily to its inclusion on a list of extremist ideologies that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent programme, which aims to safeguard people at risk of radicalisation.
The 12-page document was sent out by Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) to police forces and government agencies to help them identify people who may become linked to organisations planning terror attacks. Those listed include neo-Nazi groups National Action and Sonnenkrieg Division; extreme Satanism; and Al Muhajiroun, which seeks to create an Islamic state in Britain.
The page dedicated to XR states that the group is a threat due to the “anti-establishment philosophy that seeks system change” that underlies its activism. “The group attracts to its events school-age children and adults unlikely to be aware of this. While non-violent against persons, the campaign encourages other law-breaking activities,” it states.
“While concern about climate change is not in itself extreme, activists may encourage vulnerable people to perform acts of violence,” it said.
Animal rights activism is also detailed in the document. It says this is a threat because “activists are increasingly targeting a younger, more health-conscious audience for recruitment. Graphic images of animals in distress can be emotionally persuasive.”
In a statement, XR said: “How dare they? Children up and down the country are desperately fighting for a future. Teachers, grandparents, nurses have been trying their best with loving nonviolence to get politicians and big business to do something about the dire state of our planet.”
Former police detective sergeant of the Metropolitan Police Paul Stephens said: “Who hasn’t criticised our system of government in recent years? Are we all extremists?”
“I have never seen anyone in Extinction Rebellion encourage violence in any way to anyone. Quite the reverse. As a former police officer of 34 years experience, I seriously doubt the political independence of those who published this nonsense,” he added.
Counter Terrorism Policing South East could not be reached for comment, but has recalled the document, according to a report by the Guardian.
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.