From Protest

Let’s consign the police’s “Domestic Extremist” label to history

The label “domestic extremist” exists to justify intrusive police surveillance on political campaigners

The glacially paced Undercover Policing Inquiry, set up in 2015 and still wading through demands by former police officers for anonymity, recently released a limited number of new cover names of members of the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) who spied on campaigners during the late 1960s and the 1970s.

Many ex-SDS officers are now deceased, whilst few of the groups they targeted in this period and who are linked to the latest batch of cover names have existed for decades.

Although Mark Kennedy, the undercover officer whose exposure triggered the public inquiry, was active as recently as 2010, the continuous obstruction by the Metropolitan Police and a desire by the inquiry to obtain evidence before more elderly former officers die too has undoubtedly had an impact on public perceptions of this long-running scandal.

It has helped create the impression that political policing, surveillance operations and the disruption of campaigns were unfortunate methods from some distant past, the world of TV series like ‘Life on Mars’ when the police were notorious for corruption, fitting up suspects and endemic racism

We know, however, that police intelligence-gathering on the activities of protest movements in the UK continues to this day. We know too that he label of “domestic extremist” remains a critical justification for this surveillance, even though a credible definition robust enough to withstand legal scrutiny has proven elusive.

This is why, on Monday 5 February, we are marking the fifth annual “Domestic Extremist Awareness Day” with a call for a complete end to the application of this meaningless but sinister label against all legitimate political dissent.

In previous years, we demanded the abolition of the secretive national unit responsible for mass surveillance on political campaigns. Its existence has proven an increasing embarrassment to the Metropolitan Police and it was eventually consigned to history, although its functions were largely absorbed into the police’s national counter-terrorism structures.

The smearing of individuals and campaigns has, however, endured unabated: a regular feature of Prevent ‘counter-radicalisation’ workshops where causes that have no association with terrorism are portrayed in the most negative light.

The revelations that led to the Undercover Policing Inquiry demonstrated how unaccountable political policing has a tendency to elevate the hunt for so-called ‘extremists’ to the point of obsession.

Netpol argues that the police have no business conducting surveillance based solely on people’s political beliefs – and as a first step, we must consign “domestic extremism”, a term that has absolutely no legal basis, to history too.

Take Action

Taking to the streets and expressing our dissent is a right we can take enormous pride in exercising. On Monday 5 February, we are therefore holding a pre-work protest outside the Metropolitan Police’s new headquarters on Victoria Embankment between 8am and 9am. It is close to Westminster tube station (see map).

We are then heading to the Royal Courts of Justice for the latest hearing of the he Undercover Policing Inquiry, starting at 10am.

Why not come and join us? For further details, see this Facebook event

If you cannot make it, we are asking campaigners to share photos of their protests, actions and assemblies on social media – making it clear the police must stop spying on us – with the hashtag #DomesticExtremist.

What Netpol’s new report says about the policing of anti-fracking protests in 2017

PHOTO: Netpol

‘Protecting the Planet is Not a Crime’ – Netpol’s new report on the policing of anti-fracking protests during 2017 – was launched on Monday outside the gates of Cuadrilla’s site on Preston New Road in Lancashire.

The launch highlighted one conclusion of our report – the overwhelming case for an external review of the way the policing operation in Lancashire has been conducted. It received considerable media coverage in the north west including BBC and ITV, That’s Lancashire TV, the Blackpool Gazette, Rock FM News and more widely on LBC, Heart FM and in the Morning Star, Drill or Drop, Left Foot Forward, Evolve Politics, DeSmogUK and the Salford Star.

Keith Taylor MEP

Keith Taylor MEP speaking at the launch of Netpol’s report.

Green MEP Keith Taylor, who wrote a foreword to the report and spoke at the launch, also praised it in a piece for Politics UK. Most importantly for Netpol, it was been well received by campaigners on the ground in Lancashire.

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron speaking on Monday. PHOTO: Netpol

Keith Taylor MEP with campaigners at Maple Farm

After the media had left the launch on Monday, Lancashire Police managed to reinforce one of the points in our report about disproportionate levels of policing at Preston New Road.

The full report is available to download here [,8 Mb].

However, the following is taken from the report and sets out in more detail the conclusions it reaches. Read more

“Something has to change” – new Netpol report calls for immediate review of policing of fracking protests

PHOTO: Netpol

New report calls for “comprehensive review of national policy” on the policing of opposition to the onshore oil and gas industry

Outside shale gas company Cuadrilla’s site on Preston New Road near Blackpool, Netpol is today launching its new report, ‘Protecting the Planet is Not a Crime’, which documents our many concerns about the way the police have responded to opposition to fracking at sites around England.

Much of the report focuses on protests in Lancashire, where there have been over 300 arrests since January. Throughout 2017, Netpol has heard testimony from campaigners and seen evidence of police officers pushing people into hedges and even knocking them unconscious, violently dragging older people across the road and shoving others into speeding traffic.

We had also heard about the targeting of disabled protesters (including repeatedly tipping a wheelchair user from his chair) and officers using painful pressure point restraint techniques. Campaigners have repeatedly accused Lancashire police of ignoring violent and unlawful actions by private security employed by Cuadrilla.

However, during a visit last week to Kirby Misperton in north Yorkshire, where protests only began on 19 September, Netpol spoke to campaigners who are already echoing many of the same complaints made by their counterparts in Lancashire. Read more

Netpol launches legal fund to support anti-fracking groups

Substantial donation kick-starts new project providing financial support for resisting civil legal threats to anti-fracking groups.

A new civil legal action fund supporting anti-fracking groups launches today, as a number of campaigners opposed an interim injunction obtained by the shale gas company INEOS at a hearing this morning at the high court in London.

Aggressive legal tactics by the company have raised widespread concerns about what effect the court order it was granted at the end of July may have, if left unchallenged, on freedom of assembly and the right to protest.

This case is unusual as previous injunctions involving fracking sites have been on a far smaller scale and have normally focused on a single location. The INEOS injunction covers a wide area of the country and seeks to prevent a broad range of protest activities. including “slow-walking” of deliveries to its sites.

Most civil cases are less dramatic. This does not mean, however, that the sudden receipt of legal threats or a ‘service of order’ notice in any circumstance, particularly when oil and gas company lawyers attempt to send them via Facebook or Twitter, will not cause considerable alarm. This is invariably exacerbated by the obstacles to seeking expert legal advice. Read more

Shale gas company declares war on the anti-fracking movement

Protesters blockade drill rig supplier PR Marriott in Derbyshire. PHOTO: Reclaim the Power

Why anti-fracking campaigners must challenge INEOS’ national injunction

CALL-OUT: If you live in an INEOS exploration licence area, are potentially eligible for legal aid and are prepared to take a stand against the injunction obtained by the company, please contact Michael Oswald at Bhatt Murphy on 020 7729 1115

On 31 July, the shale gas company INEOS, which has exploration licences across North and South Yorkshire, the East Midlands and Cheshire, obtained an interim injunction preventing ‘persons unknown’ from conduct that might constitute “harassment” against it or from committing a range of offences including obstruction of the highway. The court order states that anyone disobeying the injunction could face a summons for contempt of court and could face imprisonment, a fine or the seizure of assets. Read more

Show solidarity in court with Lancashire anti-fracking defendants

PNR Lorry Surfers

Protesters on Preston New Road. PHOTO: Netpol

Over the coming months, more and more Lancashire anti-fracking campaigners arrested at Preston New Road face trials at Magistrates Courts around the north west of England.

Even for experienced activists, appearing in court is nerve-wracking and many defendants from Lancashire are facing a hearing for the first time. All would welcome as much solidarity as possible, with supporters in the public gallery to witness proceedings.

However, local campaign groups have said they recognise the risk that drawing a significant number of Protectors away from the frontline on Preston New Road to attend court may make it easier for Cuadrilla to beat the blockade without sufficient opposition on site.

They need others to step forward and offer court solidarity – can you help? Read more

New Netpol film highlights police violence at Lancashire fracking site

PRESS RELEASE

Netpol has today launched a new film on the many allegations of police violence made by campaigners who are blockading shale gas company Cuadrilla’s drilling site at Preston New Road in Lancashire.

In the first in a forthcoming series of short films made with Gathering Place Films on the policing of anti-fracking protests, Netpol shares the voices of campaigners on what is currently the front-line of resistance to fracking in the UK. Read more

More aggression on frontline as Lancashire Chief Constable still refuses to meet campaigners

A protester on top of a lorry at Preston New Road, 10 July 2017. PHOTO: Netpol

As Reclaim the Power’s month of ‘Rolling Resistance‘ solidarity actions in support of Lancashire anti-fracking groups entered its second week on 10 July, Netpol was able to witness first-hand the policing of protests at Preston New Road and to talk to local campaigners about their experiences.

The week began with the arrival of public order officers from Cumbria, Merseyside and North Wales, as Lancashire Police used ‘mutual aid‘ arrangements for the first time to bolster its presence at the Cuadrilla fracking site. Following the previous week’s aggression by police and security, campaigners were understandably nervous. Read more

Lancashire Police under fire as senior officers ignore violence against anti-fracking protesters

PHOTO: Cheryl Atkinson, Facebook

The start of Reclaim the Power’s month of Rolling Resistance on Saturday has seen the blockade of shale gas company Cuardilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire intensify, with every warning about the consequences of a highly partisan and oppressive policing operation ignored by Lancashire Police.

Just a few days in, there is already video evidence of the site’s security staff violently attacking protesters locked onto each other outside the main entrance and of the site manager restraining and punching one campaigner. The police, who have a legal duty not only to facilitate but to protect the right to freedom of assembly, failed on both occasions to intervene, even though a number of people were injured. Only after considerable publicity (including pressure on social media from Netpol) has an investigation finally begun.

Read more

UN human rights report warns against “closing of space for civil society’ in the UK

Former United Nations Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai: PHOTO: UN

In the final stages of this month’s general election, Prime Minister Theresa May attempted to bolster her increasingly fragile position with another attack on human rights laws, a move that was rightly condemned by national and international human rights groups.

With coinsiderably less publicity, however, a United Nations report on human rights in the UK, published in May, provided a reminder that legislation, on its own, does not protect our fundamental rights.  People acting together to protect these rights are just as important. Read more