An English regional counter-terrorism policing unit listed Extinction Rebellion in an anti-extremism guidance note that includes Islamist and far-right terror organisations. Authorities said they would recall the document after inquiries from the left-liberal Guardian newspaper.
The Guardian has revealed that Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) had included Extinction Rebellion in a 12-page booklet entitled Safeguarding Young People and Adults from Ideological Extremism.
The document was aimed at teachers and police when on the lookout for signs of radicalisation in young people in the referral process for Prevent, the government’s programme that intervenes primarily with youths at risk of extremism or committing acts of terror.
Other groups and ideologies listed in the document include the banned far-right National Action, extreme Satanism, the proscribed Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun, and animal rights extremism. The newspaper reports that national counter-terrorism officials said that the document was produced at a local level and believe that Extinction Rebellion’s inclusion was a mistake.
On Extinction Rebellion, the document advises authorities to be on the look-out for “propaganda materials” and the group’s logo. The CTPSE also advises being aware of young people discussing “NVDA” (non-violent direct action) and pupils who “neglect to attend school” or “participate in planned school walkouts” — a reference to the school climate strikes popularised by climate wunderkind and Extinction Rebellion supporter Greta Thunberg.
The document also advises that signs of extremism include expressing a desire to be arrested or “admiration for those arrested for protest activity” as well as those speaking in “strong or emotive terms about environmental issues like climate change, ecology, species extinction, fracking, airport expansion or pollution”.
On why the regional counter-terrorism unit said that the group should be considered a “threat”, it said: “Anti-establishment philosophy that seeks system change 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.”
“While concern about climate change is not in itself extreme, activists may encourage vulnerable people to perform acts of violence, or commit such acts themselves,” it added.
Since last year, Extinction Rebellion has periodically forced London to a standstill and threatened to halt flights at major airports by flying drones. A week of October protests resulted in 1,400 arrests, with policing costs to cover the protests from spring up to that month costing taxpayers £37 million. London’s Metropolitan Police Service attempted to enforce a ban on the protests, which was overturned by the High Court in November.
The Guardian says that after it made “further inquiries”, officials said that the document had now been recalled.
“I would like to make it quite clear that we do not classify Extinction Rebellion as an extremist organisation. The inclusion of Extinction Rebellion in this document was an error of judgment and we will now be reviewing all of the contents as a result,” head of CTPSE DCS Kath Barnes told the left-liberal newspaper.
The Guardian later reported that Extinction Rebellion may sue over their inclusion in the booklet. Amnesty International condemned the police over the document.
A paper published in July 2019 by think tank Policy Exchange determined that “the leaders of Extinction Rebellion seek a more subversive agenda, one that is rooted in the political extremism of anarchism, eco-socialism and radical anti-capitalist environmentalism. The ‘civil resistance model’ they espouse is intended to achieve mass protest accompanied by law-breaking — leading eventually to the breakdown of democracy and the state. Obscured from public view, these objectives mark Extinction Rebellion’s campaign out as an extremist one that seeks to break down the established civil order and liberal democracy in the UK.”
In one example given, authors Richard Wolton, formerly head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter-Terrorism Command, and Tom Wilson highlighted Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam speaking about people dying for their cause. In February, Hallam had said at an Amnesty International event that Extinction Rebellion activists “are not just sending out emails and asking for donations. We are going to force the governments to act, and if they don’t, we’ll bring them down and create a democracy fit for purpose. And yes — some may die in the process.”