Young people who speak emotionally about climate change might be extremists who need to be reported to the authorities. That was the message of a regional police ‘counter-terror’ guide labelling nonviolent campaigning groups as ‘extremist’. A second (national-level) police document which warned of groups like CND and Greenpeace is being challenged by CND, Trident Ploughshares and others.
The first guide, Safeguarding young people and adults from ideological extremism, was produced by ‘Counter Terrorism Policing South East’. It placed Extinction Rebellion (XR) on a list of extremist groups, including neo-Nazi terrorists and jihad promoters Al Muhajiroun, the Guardian reported on 10 January.
The guide urges those in ‘regular, direct contact’ with young people or the public to look out for various warning signs and consider a referral to ‘Prevent’ if they believe someone is falling prey to ‘ideological extremism’.
Prevent is a government programme aimed at young people who it thinks are at risk of being drawn into terrorism.
In regard to XR, the guide suggests looking out for people who speak in ‘strong or emotive terms about environmental issues like climate change, ecology, species extinction, fracking, airport expansion or pollution’.
The guide also warns of young people who ‘participate in planned school “walk-outs”’ – another dangerous group.
A separate page in the guide relates to ‘animal rights extremism’ and asks teachers to watch out for young people expressing ‘strong opposition’ to animal testing, fox-hunting or zoos, or who stop eating meat, or who question other people’s choice of products ‘if tested on animals’.
Police authorities later said that it was a ‘mistake’ to include XR in the list and the guide would be withdrawn.
A national counter-terror visual guide produced in mid-2019 lists Trident Ploughshares, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), Greenpeace, Reclaim the Power, Stop the War, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Plane Stupid, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and other nonviolent groups alongside such violent far-right groups as Combat 18 and the National Front.
This Intelligence Signs & Symbols Guidance Document, from the Counter-Terrorism Policing National Operations Centre (CTPNOC), was first reported in the Guardian on 18 January.
On 22 January, Trident Ploughshares, CND and other groups wrote a joint letter to the CTPNOC to ask for an apology and a clarification that none of them were involved in extremism or ‘radicalisation’.
The guide, which also gives the signs for squatting, ‘Nuclear Power? No Thanks!’, and the Critical Mass bike ride, was distributed to medical staff and teachers as part of anti-extremism briefings. It is meant to help professionals identify people who need to be reported to the police for their suspicious activities.
On 21 January, the Guardian reported that City of London police labelled XR one of its ‘key threats’ in a counter-terrorism assessment and provided awareness training on the group across London.