The comments below were left by some of the many contributors to our hugely successful “Protecting Freedom to Protest” crowdfunding campaign, which in November and December 2019 raised £11,109.
A month has passed since it closed so this is an update on where we are now.
“Now more than ever, Netpol’s work is essential”.
“Netpol is a vital part of maintaining our basic rights and I’m proud to support them”
“With huge gratitude and love from a Lancashire anti-fracking community that has benefited from Netpol’s expertise and support”.
As you may already have seen, since early January the Guardian has published a series of articles on how first Extinction Rebellion and subsequently an extraordinary range of different campaigning groups have been labelled “extremist” by the police.
This is an issue Netpol has highlighted continually over the last decade – it was our major campaign in 2019 – and we welcome the increased publicity this outrageous smearing of legitimate dissent is now receiving.
Netpol responded with a comment piece for Guardian Opinion and for New Internationalist, where we also emphasised that it is not just Extinction Rebellion but many others who find themselves the unwarranted targets of police surveillance.
A number of groups including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Stop the War Coalition and Greenpeace UK wrote to the Guardian on 21 January to share their “collectively support [for] the demands of the Network for Police Monitoring’s Protest Is Not Extremism campaign, which calls on the police to stop categorising campaigning and protest activities as “domestic extremism”, for a clear separation of protest policing from counter-terrorism, and for better protection for campaigners against surveillance.”
The letter added, “these proposed measures are essential to defend our right to political engagement and peaceful protest – and indeed to defend democracy”. We wholeheartedly agree.
Despite incontrovertible evidence that police are targeting campaigners – and further confirmation that this is not an isolated incidence but widespread across dozens of government departments and local authorities – the Home Office minister Brandon Lewis answered an urgent question in the House of Commons by insisting “we and the police have both said that protest groups are not extremist groups”.
In response, Netpol issued a statement saying:
“Rather than attempting to gaslight the broad spectrum of campaigners that were self-evidently smeared by counter-terrorism police, the government needs to follow up its own decision to abandon the domestic extremist label by forcing the police to do so too. Nothing else is acceptable now.”
In collaboration with film-makers The Rainbow Collective, campaigner Sam Walton from Netpol’s steering group gave an interview highlighting why it is so important we don’t just say, “I shouldn’t be on this list” of alleged extremists. We need to say this list shouldn’t exist at all. Please share the video on FaceBook.
The next phase of our campaign begins at the end of February, with further pressure to finally force the police to stop using the “domestic extremism” label – and a new call for strong legal protections for the right to freedom of assembly.
There has never been a more urgent time to take a stand to protect the freedom to protest. The police are already lobbying for new, more draconian powers, with the support of right-wing populists in the media.
That is why the generous donations of supporters have been so important – and 100% of the money donated will go towards our campaigning work.
Now that the crowdfunding campaign is closed, it is still possible to make donations through a one-off or regular contribution via our Donations page. You can also donate directly to our bank using these details:
Account name: Network for Police Monitoring
Sort Code: 40-07-12
Account Number: 61640844
Finally, if you would like to stay in touch, you can sign up to our mailing list here.