War on Dissent
Netpol’s participation in “Policing extractivism” in Salento, Italy
Commune Info, Rapporto su una guerra in atto, 22 October 2018
Carmila, Rapporto su una guerra già da lungo tempo in atto1/2, 11 October 2018
Comment on appeal by imprisoned anti-fracking campaigners
Sputnik, ‘Manifestly Excessive’: Trio Jailed for Anti-Fracking Activism Freed on Appeal, Kit Klarenberg, 17 October 2018
The Guardian, “Fracking activists to appeal against prison sentences”, Frances Perraudin, 4 October 2018
New Statesman, Jailing protesters will scare fracking’s opponents – but also galvanise them, India Bourke, 28 September 2018
“You would think the sentencing would reflect the fact that they [the defendents] were acting on grounds of conscience,” he says. Most people who are arrested and found guilty for activities at non-violent protests tends to get conditional discharge and a fine, so “the judge’s decision to imprison them is extreme – this is about sending a warning to other people as well”.
Comment on the impact of Brexit on human rights
Open Democracy, Why Brexit threatens activism, Amy Hall, 31 July 2018
Comment on Prevent referrals for anti-fracking activism
Sputnik, ‘Campaigner: UK Cops’ Anti-Fracking Protester Fake News ‘Criminalizes Dissent‘, Kit Klarenberg, 3 August 2018
The Guardian, Boy, 14, referred to anti-extremism scheme over fracking activism, Helen Pidd, 30 July 2018
Kevin Blowe, coordinator of the Network for Police Monitoring pressure group, said that the case was “profoundly disquieting”.
“Opposition to fracking falls a considerable distance outside of the report’s own definition of what constitutes ‘hateful extremism’,” he added. “The idea that encouraging others to get involved in politics and campaigning – the exercise of fundamental democratic values on an issue of profound local and national concern – is somehow akin to sexual exploitation or ‘grooming’ is simply offensive.
“It speaks volumes about everything that is wrong with Prevent and how it is used to stifle political dissent.”
On the release of a Prevent document on ‘extremist symbols and flags’
The Canary, Official counter-terror document slammed as ‘political propaganda masquerading as public safety information’, Mohammed Elmaazi, 25 May 2018
“This document shows how completely subjective the terms ‘domestic extremist’ and ‘extremist symbols’ are: no wonder the police and the government have failed to pin down a legally robust definition”.
On our Information Tribunal hearing on the release of statistics on the ‘Channel’ programme
The Canary, The Home Office just demonstrated “an incredible lack of awareness” with an extraordinary statement in court, Emily Apple, 24 May 2018
Once again, the Home Office showed its complete lack of awareness or concern for the impact of its policies on ordinary people’s lives. Insisting that referrals to a process controlled by counter-terrorism police ‘cannot in any circumstances be considered frightening’ is extraordinarily crass. It would be frightening for anyone, but even more so for vulnerable people that Channel is supposed to support.
On calls for routine arming of the police in rural areas
iNews, Police consideration of arming frontline officers ‘a dramatic shift’, say campaign groups, Elena Cresci, 17 May 2018
Kevin Blowe of the Network for Police Monitoring said… the threat of terrorism was no basis for expanding the number of armed police officers in rural communities.
“The fact that police chiefs are even privately considering such a dramatic shift in the principle that UK policing is unarmed, on such dubious grounds, is an indication of the need for far greater transparency and accountability over this kind of important operational decision,” he said. “Routinely arming more officers will increase the possibility of more mistakes, with fatal consequences for innocent people”.
On Netpol forcing the release of Home Office ‘counter-radicalisation’ training materials
On concerns raised about mobile fingerprinting technology
The Canary, Mobile fingerprinting is nothing new. But these are your rights, Emily Apple, 12 February 2018
On complaints about the misuse of Tasers by Avon & Somerset Police
The Canary, Police taser an autistic man claiming he assaulted them. The CCTV tells a ‘rather different’ story. [VIDEO], Emily Apple, 31 January 2018
Speaking to The Canary, Kevin Blowe, coordinator of the Network for Police Monitoring stated:
If the Home Office buckles under pressure to provide every officer with a Taser, we will see many more of these incidents. When the police are given the ability to use violent tactics with impunity, they seem eager to use it, backed by union representatives who insist any suspect is potentially dangerous and force is therefore always in the public interest.
On the launch of our report on the policing of anti-fracking protests in 2017
Politics.co.uk, Kettling tea ladies: Hardline policing of fracking demos is out of control, Keith Taylor MEP, 20 November 2017,
Officers are increasingly employing aggressive and confrontational tactics in an attempt to neutralise the political impact of fracking protests, according to the latest report by the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), which was published today. The human rights group warns that cumulatively these tactics are having a “chilling effect” on the freedom to protest itself.
On the viral video of police violence in Birmingham
Daily Mail, Plain clothes police officers who were suspended from duty after a video of them beating suspect with a baton went viral are cleared as watchdog finds they used ‘reasonable’ force, Mark Duell, 9 May 2018
Kevin Blowe, the co-ordinator for Netpol (the Network for Police Monitoring), told MailOnline today: ‘Police guidelines say officers must use force only as a last resort and only to prevent injury to others, damage to property, or to make a lawful arrest.
‘The reason why the video went viral in July 2017 is that none of these circumstances applied: most reasonable people watching the footage could quite clearly see officers had completely lost any self-control and had lashed out over an allegedly offensive remark.
‘Unfortunately, the police complaints system in the UK is broken and has been for some time. As a result, officers are rarely held to account for unjustified violence or aggressive conduct, even when there is compelling video evidence.
‘It comes as no surprise that this is true in this case. Regrettably, the only way forward for most complainants is, therefore, taking a civil action against the police.’
Birmingham Mail, Police officers who hit suspect with baton in viral arrest video cleared of wrongdoing, Matthew Cooper an Stephanie Balloo, 9 May 2018
Evening Telegraph, Video: police officers ‘removed from duties’ after footage shows plain-clothed cops in scuffle, Press Association 31 July 2017
Netpol coordinator Kevin Blowe said comments on social media about the context of the arrest were irrelevant.
“What matters is whether the use of force by the police was reasonable and proportionate,” he said. “It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that the police officers in the video lost control.
“Had this not been captured on film, it is unlikely West Midlands Police would now have to account for their officers’ conduct. It’s a reminder why filming stop and search incidents is so important.”
BBC News, West Midlands Police probe over ‘excessive force’ video, 31 July 2017
Birmingham Mail, Police officers removed from frontline duties over Aston arrest as matter referred to IPCC, Matthew Cooper, 31 July 2017
International Business Times, Police in viral video of ‘excessive force’ arrest of Asian man removed from frontline duty, Ludovica Iaccino, 31 July 2017
The Mirror, Police ‘removed from public duties’ after viral video shows ‘scuffle’ after stop and search, Martin Fricker, 31 July 2017
The Canary, Watch as plainclothes police officers brutally attack an Asian man for no apparent reason [VIDEO], Emily Apple, 31 July 2017
DesiBlitz, Inquiry after Policemen filmed using Baton on Asian Man, 1 August 2017
Russia Today, Probe of West Midland police launched after footage of ‘excessive’ force goes viral (VIDEO), 1 August 2017
Metro, Undercover police filmed using excessive force on man they were arresting, Richard Hartley-Parkinson, 1 August 2017
On the launch of Netpol’s film on the policing of anti-fracking protests
The Canary, Watch the shocking film that shows how low the police will go to protect the interests of big business [VIDEO], Emily Apple, 26 July 2017
The testimony and often graphic footage in this film is compelling. Local residents fighting fracking in Lancashire speak about repeated violence and aggression from the police and a complete disregard for their human rights.
On Netpol’s call for a review of policing tactics at anti-fracking protests
The Guardian, Police tactics at fracking protests need urgent review, says MEP, Sandra Laville, 10 July 2017
Last year the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) – a coalition of activists and lawyers – found that the way protests against oil and gas fracking sites were being policed across the country, in Lancashire, the East Riding of Yorkshire and Surrey, was having a chilling effect on freedom to participate in protests.
On the May 2017 vigil by Lancashire anti-fracking campaigners at Kirkham Police station
Blackpool Gazette, Fylde police station at centre of fracking protest, Tim Gavell, 17 May 2017
The protest was organised with human rights group Netpol, whose spokesman Kevin Blowe said: “The letter calls on the incoming Chief Constable, Andy Rhodes, to take part in a public meeting, ideally with Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw, to listen to concerns about strategy at the site.”
2BR, Anti-fracking demo at police station, 16 May 2017
Blackpool Gazette, Vigil planned over policing at Fylde fracking site, Tim Gavell, 10 May 2017
Kevin Blowe, its coordinator, said: “Concerns have been raised about the financial costs of policing the protests at Preston New Road but little thought appears to have been given to the legacy costs of this confrontational style of policing or the long-term impact it is having on relations with local people.”
On claims made by the Telegraph against Lancashire anti-fracking campaigners
The Canary, The Daily Telegraph has apologised for printing lies and they hoped you wouldn’t notice, Emily Apple, 27 February 2017
Cuadrilla clearly had its reasons for circulating lies about the actions of protesters. Falsely portraying them as violent aims to weaken their public support. However, it also influences the way the policing operation in Lancashire is conducted, by playing to the negative attitudes the police already seem to hold towards anti-fracking campaigners.
On the use of counter-terrorism powers to target someone for ‘anarchist views’
The Canary – An extraordinary letter reveals that you can be stopped by the police if they don’t like your political views, Emily Apple, 17 February 2017
The police have no business targeting individuals as alleged ‘domestic extremists’ based solely on their political beliefs. Vilification of these beliefs using such a rudimentary and pejorative misrepresentation of something as complex as anarchist philosophy is political policing at its most blatant.
Comment our police attempts to undermine the Undercover Policing Inquiry:
The Morning Star- Police Try to Water Down Spying Probe, Conrad Landin 15 February 2017
Network for Police Monitoring spokesman Kevin Blowe told the Star: “This is about slowing the process down and trying to get people to despair about whether this inquiry will even go anywhere.
“A number of officers have been publicly named, and there is no suggestion any of those people are under a raised degree of risk as a result.”
Comment our efforts to discover if anti-fracking campaigners are targeted for ‘counter-radicalisation’:
The Canary – This extraordinary decision means we can no longer question who is labelled as a terrorist, Emily Apple 22 November 2016
If the police claim an ‘extremist threat’ linked to any movement, even where no evidence exists, this is apparently sufficient for the Information Commissioner to side with them and against transparency. We know UK freedom of information law is extremely weak when it comes to openness on law enforcement and national security. It seems, however, that even if we had asked about ‘counter-radicalisation’ referrals relating to something as mainstream as, say, the Ramblers Association, we would still have been stonewalled. It was, after all, founded as the result of a mass illegal trespass.
Netpol asked the same question to five north-west police forces in order to protect the identities of the campaigners who told us they had been referred to Channel. Questioning our motivations and implying multiple requests for information might “facilitate the mapping of Prevent capabilities” contradicts the ICO’s own guidelines, which say public bodies should not take into account the intentions of a requester when considering whether to comply with a request for information.
Comment on the introduction of ‘spit hoods’ by the Metropolitan Police
RT – UK police will soon start bagging people’s heads during arrests, Joana Ramiro, 6 September 2016
The Canary – The Met police are using a horrific new weapon, and they don’t want you to know about it [VIDEO], Emily Apple, 6 September 2016
Every new piece of kit is always justified on the grounds of officer safety. Yet again, there no regard to the long history of violently misusing equipment against people with mental health issues and those who are routinely targeted by the police, particularly young people from minority communities.
Imagine the feeling of fear and extreme distress at having one of these hoods placed over your head, not simply as a protection for officers but as a form of restraint. Imagine struggling in panic, only for officers to use even more intensive restraint techniques against you.
This is how very vulnerable people have died in police custody in the past. It happened with the introduction of CS spray, positional restraint techniques and Tasers. Our concern is that it’s only a matter of time before spit hoods are a contributor to another grieving family’s search for answers about the death of a loved one.
Comment on the launch of our ‘Netpoleaks’ website
Vice Motherboard – New Tor Site ‘Netpoleaks’ Helps Whistleblowers Report on UK Police, Joseph Cox, 13 July 2016
UK-based activist group The Network for Police Monitoring, or Netpol, has set up a Tor hidden service so that anyone with potentially helpful information about police practices—perhaps on unlawful or misappropriate monitoring of activists, for example—can get in touch more securely.
Comment on ‘Security and Policing 2016’ militarised policing exhibition in Farnborough
Red Pepper – The rise of militarised policing, Kevin Blowe, 20 January 2016
“The time has come for us to start joining the dots: between mass surveillance and data capture, the oppressive use of stop and search, the labelling of individuals as ‘domestic extremists’, the criminalisation of young black men and the racist targeting of migrants”.
Comment on policing of anti-fracking protesters
The Canary – Police are treating opponents of fracking as terrorists, this should worry us all, Emily Apple, 8 January 2016
Kevin Blowe from the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), who have been campaigning against the use of Schedule 7 on activists and communities, called Mr Crane’s detention “alarming” and further stated:
Although intended to prevent terrorism, we have documented repeated instances of its use against campaigners, often on the basis of what seems like pre-existing intelligence relating to their political activity. Mr Crane’s experience provides more alarming evidence that opponents of fracking are amongst those who are currently targeted as ‘domestic extremists.
Comment on police surveillance of housing protesters
The Guardian – Lawyers criticise decision to prosecute housing protester over sticker, Jessica Elgot and Damien Gayle
Kevin Blowe, coordinator of the policing pressure group Netpol, said he expected to see further police interest in groups protesting the housing crisis, such as Class War.
“We’ve seen evidence that police are very keen to establish links between groups who are active on this issue and whether they are likely to grow,” he said, adding that his group had advised those attending the student demonstration on 4 November to cover their faces in order to draw attention to the privacy rights of activists.
Comment on closed Facebook group where police officers exchanged racist views
The Morning Star – Met Probes Officers After Travellers ‘Find Facebook Race Hate’, Joana Ramiro, 20 July 2015
“The best way of tackling this kind of conduct remains sacking officers who treat people as second-class citizens simply because of their race, ethnicity or immigration status,” said Network for Police Monitoring co-ordinator Kevin Blowe.
“Anyone surprised that comments in a closed Facebook group confirm police racism has never gone away really hasn’t been listening closely enough to monitoring groups or the experiences of thousands of young black people on the streets.”
City of London Police’s anti-terrorism training exposed
The Guardian – City of London police put Occupy London on counter-terrorism presentation with al-Qaida, Ben Quinn, 19 July 2015
Kevin Blowe, a co-ordinator of Netpol, said this was repeated around the country and was the “result of including ill-defined labels, like ‘domestic extremism’, within the language and strategies of counter-terrorism”.
“Programmes like the government’s Prevent strategy overwhelmingly target and stigmatise Muslim communities, but as Project Fawn shows, they also provide plenty of scope to include almost any group of political activists that the police dislike or consider an inconvenience.
“These slides show a real disdain for legitimate rights to exercise freedoms of expression and assembly in a free society, which leads to individuals having their lawful activities recorded and retained on secret police intelligence databases.”
The Supreme Court’s verdict on the John Catt ‘domestic extremism’ case
The Guardian – Secret police file on 90-year-old campaigner is lawful, court rules, Rob Evans, 4 March 2015
Kevin Blowe, coordinator of the civil liberties group Network for Police Monitoring, which took part in the case, said: “This ruling allows the police extraordinary discretion to gather personal information of individuals for purposes that are never fully defined.”
Police abuse of pre-charge bail conditions
The Guardian – Revealed: Police using pre-charge bail to muzzle protesters, Kevin Rawlinson, 25 December 2014
The Network for Police Monitoring, a group of activists and lawyers who are compiling evidence of police strategies, said: “Police bail is used a means of disrupting protest activity without the inconvenience of dealing with a formal legal process.
“As a result of the police’s long track record of misusing pre-charge conditions against protesters in an irresponsible way, we believe the only solution is the complete withdrawal of this power for all protest-related offences.”
The Supreme Court appeal hearing on the John Catt ‘domestic extremism’ case
The Guardian – Police try to overturn ruling they broke law while monitoring octogenarian, Rob Evans, 2 December 2014
Catt’s case is being supported at the hearing by Network for Police Monitoring, a civil liberties group. Its co-ordinator, Kevin Blowe, said: “The outcome of this hearing is extremely important, because a victory for the Metropolitan police will make it significantly easier for intelligence-gathering officers to continue to obtain and retain data about protesters on an almost industrial scale.”
On the relationship between the police and anti-fracking companies
New Internationalist – A fracking scandal: police and energy firms cosy on up, Josh Allen, 21 October 2014
Anti-fracking activists in Greater Manchester and West Sussex have been left concerned, but not surprised, by the results of a long-running Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol) investigation into a series of secretive agreements signed between their local police forces and private companies exploring the viability of fracking in their areas.
Metropolitan Police confirms names of two undercover police spies
The Morning Star – Met exposes sex spies — but tries to justify their actions as ‘normal’, Conrad Landin, 16 August 2014.
Police malpractice watchdog Netpol welcomed the formal unmasking yesterday of two Met spies who slept with women activists — but expressed disgust at new attempts by the force to justify its officers’ actions as “genuine relationships.”
Netpol co-ordinator Kevin Blowe said: “The Met’s insistence that these relationships were ‘genuine’ is both jaw-dropping and genuinely sickening.
“If the claim was true, why would every one of the spies, who were the supposedly ‘real’ partners of eight women currently suing the police, follow protocol and their training and disappear without trace at the end of their tours of duty?”
Birmingham student activist targeted by counter-terrorism officers
Vice UK – Are Students Who protest Against the Cuts ‘Extremists’?, Josh Allen, 23 July 2014
I spoke to Kevin Blowe of the Network for Police Monitoring, which was first to kick up a fuss about Pat’s situation. He told me it is, “less common for Prevent officers to get involved in this way. They are usually concerned with harassing young Muslims. However, as their role is ‘deradicalisation’ and, as… ‘radical’ is whatever officers have a ‘gut feeling about, it may happen far more often and we just haven’t heard about it. Because the… process is so opaque, it’s almost impossible to find out.”
Green Party politicians on ‘domestic extremism’ database
Vice Motherboard – London’s Police Database of Extremists Also Includes Politicians and Activists, Joseph Cox. 16 June 2014
The working definition of “domestic extremism” used by the Metropolitan Police states that it “relates to the actions of groups or individuals who commit or plan serious criminal activity motivated by a political or ideological viewpoint,” according to a Freedom of Information Request by independent police watchdog Netpol.
As broad as this definition is, two politicians that have no record of criminal behaviour still don’t fit into it. “Even if that is what you’re saying [extremism] is, the people that you’re gathering information on do not fit that criteria,” Netpol coordinator Kevin Blowe told me.
Netpol’s formal complaint to the Information Commissioner on subject access requests
The Morning Star – Probe demanded over Met Police personal data hoard, Joana Ramiro. 20 May 2014
Netpol co-ordinator Kevin Blowe said: “As well as a breach of data protection legislation, the Met’s systemic failure to provide vital personal data when asked to do so raises wider public interest issues, about police accountability and the potential misuse of covert surveillance.”
Netpol on our legal challenge to the ‘domestic extremist’ database
The Guardian – Police face legal challenge over secret files on protesters, Rob Evans and Owen Bowcott. 18 October 2013
Val Swain, of Netpol, said: “There is a database culture within modern policing that has been allowed to run wild. Yet the law does not effectively regulate the ways in which this data is collected, how it is kept and used or who it is shared with. This has to change.”
Police liaison officers accused of harassing activist
The Guardian, Police liaison officers accused of harassing activist – video, Jason Parkinson, 4 September 2012
Val Swain of Netpol contributes to a Guardian video by Jason Parkinson on Sussex police liaison officers accused of going to a woman’s home and grilling her on her membership of UK Uncut and about future protests.
Netpol on the use of plain clothes police on demonstrations
The Independent – The moment protesters found a plain clothes cop in their midst. Kevin Rawlinson. 2 December 2011
Val Swain, of the Network for Police Monitoring, said: “Unlike uniformed police officers, those in plain clothes wear no identifying numbers, and cannot be held to account. The use of plain clothes police can cause an unpleasant level of distrust among demonstrators, even those who are law-abiding. Nobody wants to go on a demonstration where you are not sure whether the person next to you could be recording what you say for the police file. That is not the sort of society we want to live in.
“In addition, we have no information about the remit of plain-clothes police officers at demonstrations. What is the extent of their role?
“This is an invasive policing tactic that has no regard for civil liberties. Those engaged in protest already feel under siege from aggressive and disproportionate policing.”
Netpol on the use of undercover policing
But according to campaign group The Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), the HMIC review has failed to address fundamental issues.
“On the basis of this report, undercover police officers can continue to target a range of political and protest groups,” says Val Swain, spokesperson for Netpol. “The report is not even able to deliver an agreed definition of the term ‘domestic extremism’, meaning there are still no real limits on how the targets of undercover policing are decided upon.”
Swain points to the case of an 87-year-old artist, John Catt, who launched a legal challenge against police in 2011 after he was branded a domestic extremist and put under surveillance during a number of anti-arms trade demonstrations.
“Mr Catt had no criminal record, and spent his time at protests sketching, but the police have been adamant in asserting their right to hold details of his vehicle, his family, his appearance and his movements… There is no justification for the invasive surveillance of this kind of political activity, either through undercover officers or other means.
“The domestic extremism unit lacks any real accountability or transparency, and ultimately lacks any credibility. It is a shadowy unit that has been allowed to set its own rules for spying on legitimate political activity and dissent, and has no place within British society, or British policing.”
Netpol on police corruption
Red Pepper: Unfair cops – its not about ‘bad apples’, 17 December 2011
Cosy cliques building up among powerful individuals and institutions are a recipe for corrupt practices, as the phone hacking scandal has shown. Yet there is no watchdog that can effectively oversee the mechanics of what is going on in our police forces.
Police forces are usually keen to form good relationships with the press. They happily provide tip-offs and titbits of stories, but in return often expect the media to reflect a police perspective of events. Coverage of political events, such as demonstrations and rallies, frequently reflect a police viewpoint. Depending on circumstances, there is a thin line between an effective working relationship and an unhealthy ability to influence the media’s portrayal of events.
Netpol on the treatment of protesters by the police
Press TV, 4 April 2011
Netpol on the policing of EDL demonstrations (Leicester)
in The Observer UK Uncut accuses police of politically motivated arrests, 2 April 2011
Fresh claims of politically motivated policing also surfaced in a report alleging that officers prevented Muslims from attending counter-demonstrations against an English Defence League rally. Leicestershire Constabulary stopped members of the Muslim community protesting against the EDL during a high-profile march last October, according to the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol). It said that the force attempted to dissuade Muslims, through mosques and schools, from protesting against the EDL demonstration at an authorised protest by Unite Against Fascism on the same day, and issued leaflets advising that young people could be picked up and held in “safe areas”.
Val Swain of Netpol said: “This is a strategy that we have seen up and down the country, and it appears to have been sanctioned at the highest levels. It is not for the police to decide which sectors of society are allowed to protest and which are not.”
Iain Channing, University of Plymouth – Freedom of Expression from the ‘Age of Extremes’ to the ‘Age of Terror’: Reflections on public order law and the legal responses to political and religious extremism in 1930’s Britain and the post 9/11 era.
In its report of the policing of the demonstration, the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) emphasized that the EDL had broken through police cordons before and this was anticipated by the local community.
The benefit of banning processions was also questioned by Netpol as this led to a shuttle bus service being provided to transport EDL members from their prearranged meeting point to the rally site.
Children were also warned that under s46 Children Act 1989 the police would have the power to take any young person into police protection who were at risk of significant harm? due to lack of parental care. As this is a provision that aims to keep children safe from exploitation and abuse, Netpol reported that this was the first time they were aware of it being used in the context of political protest.