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If defending life on Earth is extremist, we must own that label

7 606 0
22.01.2020

It’s not an “error” or an “accident”, as the police now claim. It’s a pattern. First, the Guardian revealed that counter-terrorism police in south-east England have listed Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the youth climate strikes as forms of “ideological extremism”. Then teachers and officials around the country reported that they had been told, in briefings by the anti-radicalisation Prevent programme, to look out for people expressing support for XR and Greenpeace.

Then the Guardian found a Counter Terrorism Policing guide to the signs and symbols used by various groups. Alongside terrorists and violent extremist organisations, the guide listed Greenpeace, XR, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, CND, the Socialist party, Stop the War and other peaceful green and left organisations. Then the newspaper discovered that City of London police had listed XR as a “key threat” in its counter-terrorism assessment.

There’s a long history in the UK of attempts to associate peaceful protest with extremism or terrorism. In 2008, for example, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) produced a list of “domestic extremists”. Among them was Dr Peter Harbour, a retired physicist and university lecturer, who had committed the cardinal sin of marching and petitioning against an attempt by the energy company npower (then RWE npower) to drain a beautiful local lake and fill it with pulverised fly ash. Acpo sought to smear peace campaigners, Greenpeace and Climate Camp with the same charge.

The police have always protected established power against those who challenge it, regardless of the nature of that challenge. And they have long sought to criminalise peaceful dissent. Part of the reason is ideological: illiberal and undemocratic attitudes infest policing in this country. Part of it is empire-building: if police units can convince the government and the........

© The Guardian