From Protest

Police and fracking companies – STILL in each other’s pockets?

PNR March 2017

Protest at Preston New Road, March 2017. PHOTO: Frack Off

Lancashire Police face growing industry pressure to ‘crack down’ on anti-fracking protests

Since we highlighted, at the beginning of March, the increasingly confrontational operation by Lancashire Police against anti-fracking campaigners at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, more protesters have complained of violence and officers pushing them towards busy traffic.

This escalation in aggressive police tactics has coincided with a campaign of pressure from supporters of the onshore oil and gas industry, conducted mainly through the pages of the Times newspaper, which has called for the police and courts to respond more robustly towards the anti-fracking movement. Read more

Lancashire anti-frackers face uncertainty over increasingly aggressive police tactics

Lancashire Police officers outside the Preston New Road site near Blackpool. PHOTO: Frack Off

Video evidence of an assault on Tuesday by a Lancashire Police officer on a Fylde borough councillor, Roger Lloyd, points to an escalation of more ‘robust’ and aggressive tactics by police against anti-fracking protests at Cuadrilla’s shale gas exploration site near Blackpool. 

This is the latest in a series of decisions made by local police that is likely to make it more difficult for protesters to know with any certainty what treatment they are likely to receive and whether police will genuinely protect their right to protest.

Read more

Large or Small, Why Protests Still Matter

A police officer at the Women’s March on London, January 2017. PHOTO: Bruno Mameli / Shutterstock.

Feedback from supporters who took part in last week’s Domestic Extremism Awareness Day was very clear – people believe strongly that the freedom to protest remains valuable and important and deserves protection from efforts by the state to undermine and disrupt its effectiveness.

Campaigners resent the smearing of their activism as ‘extremism’, not only because this label is evidently so easy to apply without the slightest evidence, but because it seems deliberately intended to drive away wider public support. Read more

This is Not Domestic Extremism

palestine-protestLaunched in 2013, Netpol’s annual “Domestic Extremist Awareness Day” takes place on Monday 6 February. This year, we are calling for a complete end to the meaningless but sinister use of the ‘domestic extremist’ label against all legitimate political dissent.

As we have argued repeatedly over the last couple of years, the term “domestic extremist” means pretty much whatever the police want it to mean.

It is a critical justification for state surveillance on protest movements in the UK, but both the government and the police have struggled to devise a credible definition robust enough to withstand legal scrutiny. As a result, Prime Minister Theresa May’s flagship counter-terrorism and safeguarding bill, announced back in May 2016, is currently floundering precisely because government lawyers have still been unable to codify ‘extremism’ or ‘British values’ in ways that are compatible with fundamental rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Read more

Extraordinary judgment rubber-stamps unfounded link between anti-fracking and extremism

PHOTO: Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock

PHOTO: Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock

The Information Commissioner, in rejecting an appeal by Netpol over the refusal of the police to release details of a programme to ‘deradicalise extremists’, has endorsed unfounded and unsubstantiated links between anti-fracking protests and the threat of terrorism.

In October 2015, we asked Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside police for details of referrals made in the prior ten months through Channel, a ‘counter radicalisation’ process that is part of the government’s anti-terrorism Prevent strategy. Channel supposedly offers voluntary support to people identified as “vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism” and although there are a number of agencies involved in it, the police play a central role in its delivery. Rather than overall statistics, we asked specifically for the number of individuals seen as allegedly at risk through their involvement in anti-fracking campaigns.

Our requests were the result of concerns raised with us by campaigners from the region who were angered that their opposition to fracking had been used as an excuse to refer them to Channel, in most cases by universities or further education colleges. All related to an alleged ‘risk’ to adults rather than children.

In a startling determination, the Information Commissioner has said:

Channel may be appropriate for anyone who is vulnerable to being drawn into any form of terrorism… It follows from this that, for a referral to be made to Channel, it must be suspected that an individual is at risk of becoming involved in terrorist related activity.

In effect, the Commissioner is insisting nobody is referred unless there is a good reason for doing so – even if this is for nothing more than expressing legitimate political opinions about fracking. Read more

Report highlights ‘chilling effect’ on freedom to protest against fracking

pages-from-policing-anti-fracking-protests-report-2014-2016

Netpol has published a new report, ‘Protecting the Protectors: Monitoring the Policing of Anti-Fracking Protests since 2014’, which summarises our activities, findings and analysis of the policing of protests against fracking since 2014.

Drawing extensively on discussions with anti-fracking campaigners, as well as our own observations at prospective fracking sites, the report covers our

  • •Engagement with – and development of resources for – anti-fracking campaigners
  • Concerns with the policing of anti-fracking demonstrations and camps
  • The intrusive surveillance of anti-fracking campaigners; and
  • The opaque relationship between the police and the fracking industry .

We have argued that the way policing operations are planned for anti-fracking protests, the scale of intrusive surveillance against campaigners and ‘zero tolerance’ attitudes towards civil disobedience has a cumulative ‘chilling effect’ on freedoms of assembly and expression:

When coupled with an unfounded association with serious criminality and ‘extremism’ and an unwillingness by police to accommodate protests without routinely making arrests, this can start to quickly chip away at campaign groups’ support and participation and have a disruptive impact on their effectiveness and activities.

With the imminence of new test drilling and exploration sites around the country, the report also outlines the next phase of our campaigning work between now and September 2018.

Your can download a copy of the report here [pdf_icon, 1.2 Mb]

How transparent is the policing of anti-fracking protests?

Anti-fracking protest march in Malton, North Yorkshire

Anti-fracking protest march in Malton, North Yorkshire. PHOTO: Paul Rookes / Shutterstock.com

The interests of energy companies are widely perceived as taking priority over the rights of protesters.

Nearly a year after we first raised concerns about new guidelines on the policing of anti-fracking protests, we have finally had some answers to questions we raised with the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).

In the last of four posts, we examine what the NPCC’s response tells us about the level of transparency of policing operations involving anti-fracking protests.  Read more

Is dialogue with Police Liaison Officers really ‘voluntary’?

Police Liaison Officers at the March against Austerity in June 2014. PHOTO: Netpol

A cluster of Police Liaison Officers at the March against Austerity in June 2014. PHOTO: Netpol

Nearly a year after we first raised concerns about new guidelines on the policing of anti-fracking protests, we have finally had some answers to questions we raised with the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).

In the third of four posts, we look at police attitudes to the use of ‘dialogue’ and ‘liaison’ and whether senior officers have a different understanding from protesters about what these words really mean. Earlier posts cover intelligence-gathering operations and body-worn cameras at anti-fracking protests. Read more

Trade unionists hassled by private security on London’s South Bank

Unite Hotel Workers Branch protest

Unite Hotel Workers Branch members outside the Premier Inn at County Hall. PHOTO: Mark Kerrison / Alamy

Protesters increasingly face confrontations with private security and uncertainty about “quasi-public” spaces

The experience of Unite Hotel Workers branch members, protesting against bullying, harassment and victimisation of workers in London’s top hotels, has once again highlighted how the increasing privatisation of “quasi-public” spaces extends beyond shopping centres and malls to large parts of central London. Read more

Police chiefs reject body-worn video camera privacy concerns

Body-worn video cameras privacy

Body-worn video cameras on police officers in Nottinghamshire. PHOTO: Netpol

Police chiefs show extraordinary lack of interest in privacy issues

Nearly a year after Netpol first raised concerns about new guidelines on the policing of anti-fracking protests, we have finally received some answers to questions we raised with the National Police Chiefs Council.

In the second of four posts, we look at the police’s attitude to the use of body-worn cameras and the implications for protesters’ individual privacy.

In Netpol’s briefing to the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) last year we raised, within wider concerns about the level of intensive and sustained surveillance targeted at anti-fracking protesters, the particular issues of photography and police body-worn video (BWV).

The NPCC guidance makes it clear that police will use live video sources, including video cameras worn by individual officers, supplemented by social media sources. Read more