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
Launched 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
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 [, 1.2 Mb]
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
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).
National Police Chiefs Council insists using controversial covert undercover tactics is a matter for local police commanders
In July 2015, the National Police Chiefs Council published new guidance on operations targeting anti-fracking protests. In response, Netpol produced a detailed briefing raising eighteen questions about the scale and tactics of policing operations and the necessity of undertaking significant intelligence-gathering targeting opponents of fracking. Now, nearly a year on, we have finally received a reply from Norfolk Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Sarah Hamlin, of the NPCC’s National Protest Working Group.
In the first of four posts examining what her answers tell us about police attitudes to the policing of protest, we look at intelligence-gathering and the labelling of protesters as ‘extremists’. Read more
When the Countryside Alliance’s advisor on policing, retired Dyfed Powys chief inspector Phillip Davies, addressed the recent National Police Chiefs Council conference in Derby, also attended by Netpol, he was keen to portray opponents of hunting as violent ‘extremists’ and complained bitterly about the lack of police action against them. In reality, however, it is often activists monitoring breaches of the Hunting Act 2004 who are themselves under attack by hunt supporters. Read more
It is deeply disappointing that within a matter of moments following yesterday’s planning decision by county councillors to approve fracking in Ryedale, North Yorkshire Police promised a crackdown on future protests. Its pre-prepared statement said that it plans to take “appropriate action against those who break the law” and “not tolerate criminal behaviour and we will ensure public order is maintained.”
Raising the temperature of an already fraught and emotive debate with an unnecessarily inflammatory press release is unhelpful. It is also another indicator of all too commonplace and negative assumptions by police about what have always been overwhelmingly peaceful anti-fracking protests. Read more
Government unveils new ‘counter-extremist’ bill – but still cannot define what extremism actually means
While most of the media insisting this week’s Queen’s Speech was largely overshadowed by the EU referendum, one new law proposed this week looks set to create even more controversy as existing ‘anti-radicalisation’ legislation, already sweeping, is strengthened further.
The government plans to introduce a Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill, which will ‘prevent radicalisation, tackle extremism in all its forms, and promote community integration’. A statement by the Home Office says it will protect “against the most dangerous extremists” and give police “a full range of powers to deal with extremism”.
Another counter-terrorism bill also formed part of the Queen’s Speech in May last year. It was subsequently criticised by David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws, who said it risked legitimising “the state to scrutinise [and the citizen to inform upon] the exercise of core democratic freedoms by large numbers of law-abiding people”. A year on, that bill had completely failed to progress any further because the government has been unable to find a “legally robust” definition of what ‘extremism’ actually means. Read more
A guest post by Saqib Deshmukh of High Wycombe Community Advocates and Netpol on a new report raising serious questions about the policing of last month’s EDL march and counter-demonstration
High Wycombe Community Advocates (HWCA) were one of the key local groups behind the hugely successful counter demonstration against the EDL on Saturday April 9th. We were pleased overall that it went off relatively peacefully and it was great to see a mix of young and old and different sections of communities and political affiliations coming together.
We hugely outnumbered the English Defence League whose presence only seemed larger due to the large number of police officers around them at all times! It showed how local and county/region wide groups could come together to find common purpose and ensure that there was effective opposition to the English Defence League.
However, it also showed how out of touch how local leadership particularly in the Asian community are with what is happening on the ground. Read more