Published by the Guardian on Tuesday 18 June 2019

One of the greatest threats to free speech in Britain is the routine labelling, by the police, of non-violent protests and campaigns as “domestic extremism”. This is a term that has no clear legal definition but yet is used to justify intensive surveillance and the retention of information on people who in many cases have never been arrested. Designating a campaign as ‘extremist’ means that everyone associated with it may also find themselves labelled in this way – even if they do nothing unlawful.

From anti-fracking and anti-racist campaigners to peace and anti-nuclear groups, international solidarity activists and opponents of hunting, so many people who are legitimately protesting are also subjectively targeted for sweeping terrorism powers. This includes the draconian “counter-radicalisation” Prevent programme, which has been used to try and stifle the political views of young people, their parents and those who work with children and vulnerable adults.

Categorising legitimate free speech and dissent as “domestic extremism” intimidates and alienates people from taking part in protest activities, restricting their ability to exercise their rights to freedom of assembly and association. This cannot continue. Already this year, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that police acted unlawfully in compiling and retaining records about the political activities of campaigners John and Linda Catt on a ‘domestic extremism’ database. It added that UK law in this area is too vague to provide adequate protection against the arbitrary use of police powers.

We collectively support the demands of Netpol’s “Protest Is Not Extremism” campaign, which calls on the police to stop categorising campaigning and protest activities as ‘domestic extremism’. We also seek a clear separation of protest policing from counter-terrorism and better protection for campaigners against surveillance, including independent oversight of how police use it in relation to political protest.

Signed by

Kevin Blowe, Coordinator, Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol)

John and Linda Catt, campaigners who successfully challenged the police’s “domestic extremism” database

Shamik Dutta, Bhatt Murphy, John and Linda Catt’s solicitor

Jenny Jones, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

Silkie Carlo, Director, Big Brother Watch

Deborah Coles, Executive Director, INQUEST

Mark Thomas, Writer and performer

Dave Timms, Friends of the Earth

Sheena Mooney, Reclaim the Power

Kate Hudson, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Alexandra Phillips, Green Party MEP

Joe Corré, Talk Fracking

Dr Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion

Claire James, Campaign Against Climate Change

Millie Graham Wood, Privacy International

Eveline Lubbers, Donal O’Driscoll and Christopher Brain, Undercover Research Group

Estella Schmid, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities

Anna Vickerstaff, 350.org

Graham Thompson, Co-founder of Plane Stupid

Asad Rehman, anti-racist campaigner

Melanie Gingell, Peace in Kurdistan

Emily Apple, journalist and campaigner

Rebecca Lush, environmental campaigner

Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya, University of East London

David Mead, Professor of UK Human Rights Law, University of East Anglia

Professor David Miller, University of Bristol

Dr Tanzil Chowhdury, Lecturer in Public Law, Queen Mary University of London

Dr Will Jackson, Liverpool John Moores University

Dr Asim Qureshi, CAGE

Dr Hilary Aked, researcher and campaigner

Professor Emeritus Nick Cowern, Newcastle University

Dr Andrea Brock, University of Sussex

Dr. Simon Sweeney, University of York.

Catherine Harrington, Frack Off London

Claire Stephenson and Bob Dennett, Frack Free Lancashire

Tina Rothery, UK Nanas

Tom Wainwright, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers and co-author of the “Protest Handbook”

Michael Hamilton, Senior Lecturer in Public Protest Law, University of East Anglia and secretary of the OSCE-ODIHR Panel of Experts on Freedom of Assembly.

Damien Short, Director – Human Rights Consortium & Reader in Human Rights, Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Andy Meinke, Activist Court Aid Brigade

Carol Towner, Protest Justice

Lydia Dagostino, solicitor, Kellys

Simon Pook, solicitor, Lizars

Mike Schwarz, solicitor, Bindmans

Rachel Harger, solicitor, Bindmans

Ian Brownhill, Barrister

Owen Greenhall, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Alex Gask, Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers

Matt Foot, solicitor, Birnberg Peirce

Jules Carey, solicitor, Bindmans

Raj Chada, solicitor, Hodge Jones & Allen

Lochlinn Parker, solicitor, ITN

Patrick Ormerod, solicitor, Bindmans

Michael Oswald, solicitor, Bhatt Murphy

Simon Natas, solicitor, ITN

Steven Bird, solicitor, Birds

Ewa Jasiewicz, union organiser, activist and writer

Liam Geary Baulch, Extinction Rebellion

Phil Ball, activist, Arctic 30

Richard Scholey, Woodsetts Against Fracking

Steve Mason, Frack Free United

Richard Roberts, Reclaim the Power / one of the ‘Frack Free Four’

Rich Loizou, Reclaim the Power / one of the ‘Frack Free Four’

Ros Blevins, Reclaim the Power / one of the ‘Frack Free Four’

Maureen Mills, Halsall Against Fracking

Barbara Richardson, Roseacre Awareness Group

Susan Gough, Frack Free Kirby Misperton

Liz Cruse, Pagans United Against Fracking

Andy Andrews, Frack Free Somerset

Julie Daniels, Lancashire Nanas

Lorraine Inglis, Weald Action Group

Peter Scott, environmental campaigner

Jojo Mehta, Frack Free Five Valleys

Merilyn Tarplee, The Moss Alliance

Kathryn McWhirter, No Fibs (No Fracking in Balcombe Society)

Benjamin Dean, environmental campaigner

Dr Jill Sutcliffe, Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green

Vivien Murchison, Concerned Communities of Falkirk

Alan Flint and Diane Bell, Frack Free Yeovil

Aedín McLoughlin, Good Energies Alliance Ireland

Owen Adams, Frack off Our Forest (of Dean)

Diane Wood, South Somerset Green Party

Tim Dawes, Unite Community, Shropshire Branch

Chris Cannon, SAFE Singleton Against Fracked Environment

David Penney, Keep East Lancashire Frack Free

Anna Currado and Emily Anderson, Keep Billingshurst Frack Free

John Clandillon-Baker and Rosie Rechter, East Kent Against Fracking

Ian Roberts, Residents Action on Fylde Fracking

Rikki Blue, journalist, RealMedia.Press

Mike Hill, Expert Adviser, Technical Working Group on Hydrocarbon-BREF, Joint Research Council of the EU Commission.

Richard Lawson and Sue Young-Pugh, Frack Free North Somerset

Cllr Lisa Scott, Mole Valley Green Party

Chris Cole, Drone Wars UK

Martyn Lowe, Close Capenhurst Campaign

Janie Mac, campaigner

Maggie Hartley, Retired university lecturer

Michael Vickery, Frack Free Yeovil

Pat Smith, Dorking Climate Emergency

Graham Stewart, South Lanarkshire Against Unconventional Gas

Jay Ginn, Croydon Green Party

Kevin and Teresa Ogilvie-White, Frack Free EQS (Exmoor-Quantock-Sedgemoor)

Adrian Palmer, Frack Free York and Villages

Thomas Barlow, Rebel Cities

Michelle Easton, Kirby Misperton Protectors

Ken Gorman, peace campaigner

Leigh Coghill, anti-fracking campaigner

Will Cottrell, Chair, Brighton Energy Coop

Cllr Linda Johnson, East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Russell Scott, Investigative journalist

David Adam and Barbara Hickman, Frack Free Ryedale

Kim Hunter, Frack Free Scarborough

Rob Basto, Frack Free Surrey

Ellie Wyatt, Frack Free Sussex

Steve Bolter and Peter Anthony Bruce, Green Liberal Democrats

Juliet McBride, Nukewatch

Josephine Downs, Frack Free Malton & Norton

Sheila Menon, social justice campaigner, one of the ‘Heathrow 13’

Sian Sullivan, Professor of Environment and Culture, Bath Spa University

Mike Hannis, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Humanities, Bath Spa University and editor, The Land magazine.

Professor Andy Stirling, University of Sussex

Amber Huff, Institute of Development Studies

Professor David Ockwell, Professor of Geography, University of Sussex

Andrea Cornwall, researcher

Jan Selby, Professor of International Relations, University of Sussex

Liz Khan, Women in Black London

Jane Talents, Trident Ploughshares

Professor Ian Scoones, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex

Jean Hesketh, Frack Free Dudleston

Peter Underwood, London representative on the Green Party Regional Council

Dr Judith Verweijen, Lecturer in International Relations, University of Sussex

Simon Reed, Director, Conscience: Taxes for Peace not War

Richard Dixon-Payne, Sustainable Hackney

June Bhooshi, Sheffield Against Fracking

Dr Rebecca Elmhirst, Reader in Human Geography, University of Brighton

Frank Jackson, Former Co-chair, World Disarmament Campaign

Tim Devereux, Vice-Chair, Movement for the Abolition of War

Guy Martin, environmental campaigner

Helen Steel, Police Spies Out of Lives & McLibel

Alan & Jane Finney, Mosborough Against Fracking

Ian Pocock, London Campaign Against Arms Trade

Steve Ballard, Secretary, London Hazards Centre

Polly Bluck, Tower Hamlets Women for Peace

Dr Rob Byrne, Lecturer, University of Sussex

Melanie Strickland, Stansted 15

Dr Roxana Pessoa Cavalcanti, Lecturer in Criminology, University of Brighton

Marianne Bennett, Radiation Free Lakeland

Cez Barraclough, Sea-Watch.org

Gwen Buck, BP or not BP?

Toni Cottee, Rising Tide UK

Amanda Root, Extinction Rebellion

Richard Souter, Sheffield Friends of the Earth

“Jessica”, Police Spies Out of Lives

Dr Graeme Hayes, Reader in Political Sociology, Aston University

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager, Peace Pledge Union

Rosaleen Duffy. Professor of International Politics, University of Sheffield

Jennifer M. Carpenter, Co-Chair, Sheffield Climate Alliance

Pam Lucas, environmental campaigner

Paul Gravett, animal rights activist, campaigner against spycops/state repression

Liz Davies, barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Dave Hampton, the Carbon Coach

Helen Dryden, Frack Free Wigan / Greenpeace (Greater Manchester)

Ruth Smith

Charlotte Law

Rob Laycock

Barry Hughes

Sharron loizou

Neil Wilson

Carol Hutchinson

Dr Peter Whittick

Beverley Booker

Ruth Moulton

Frack Free Frodsham and Helsby

Frack Free Elton, Ince and Thornton-le-Moors

Frack Free Dee