Counter-terrorism police in the South-East came under fire recently as an official safeguarding programme included Extinction Rebellion (XR) on an official list of dangerous extremist groups earlier this month.
Anti-extremism police members placed XR alongside neo-Nazi and pro-terrorist Islamist groups in the anti-radicalisation program Prevent.
The since-amended error, concerning a 12-page guide that stands as a resource for those who must, by law, report individuals who are at risk of committing crimes on behalf of extremist groups, was revealed by the Guardian on the 10thJanuary.
Former head of ‘Prevent’, Sir Peter Fahy, has expressed his concern that this will contribute to a loss in community support and confidence in efforts to combat the rise of extremism and eliminate terrorist attacks.
Extinction Rebellion, PETA, Greenpeace and other non-violent protest groups have also been included on another more recent Prevent document, the Guardian revealed on the 17thJanuary.
In an official statement, a representative of Extinction Rebellion said: “In a world of misinformation, where lies travel faster than the truth, we can’t help but wonder was this a deliberate attempt to silence a legitimate cause.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if they focused on the real extremists?”
The police have since stated that this was a mistake at a local level and have emphasised that counter-terrorism officials in other parts of the UK were not involved and do not share this view of XR.
Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) are responsible for creating the document and have said in an official statement: “This document was produced at a local level to help our partners to spot the signs of vulnerability to radicalisation.
“By including Extinction Rebellion in this document, it gives the impression we consider them to be an extremist group, which they are not. We will review the guidance to make this clear.”
The document was then recalled but thus far no other formal efforts have been made to reverse the effects of the mistake.
Labour leadership frontrunner, Keir Starmer described the error as “completely wrong and counterproductive.”
Amnesty International have also condemned the police’s actions.
Home secretary Priti Patel, however, took a different stance, highlighting the importance of considering “a range of security risks.”
Public support of XR and condemnation of CTPSE have highlighted support for the self-proclaimed “non-violent civil disobedience activist movement.”
In the wake of the initial police blunder, articles have emerged suggesting imminent legal action from XR.
Recently, XR won a similar case against the police when a ban on London protests was ruled unlawful. No official information on an XR lawsuit has yet been published.
Image: Julia Hawkins via Flickr