Counter-terrorism police placed the non-violent group Extinction Rebellion (XR) on a list of extremist ideologies that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent programme, which aims to catch those at risk of committing atrocities, the Guardian has learned.
The climate emergency campaign group was included in a 12-page guide produced by counter-terrorism police in the south-east titled Safeguarding young people and adults from ideological extremism, which is marked as “official”.
XR featured alongside threats to national security such as neo-Nazi terrorism and a pro-terrorist Islamist group. The guide, aimed at police officers, government organisations and teachers who by law have to report concerns about radicalisation, was dated last November.
It says that issues to look out for include people who speak in “strong or emotive terms about environmental issues like climate change, ecology, species extinction, fracking, airport expansion or pollution”.
In the guide, people are advised to listen and look out for young people who “neglect to attend school” or “participate in planned school walkouts” – an allusion to the school strikes for the climate, a global movement of which the activist Greta Thunberg is a lead proponent. Thousands of UK pupils, and millions worldwide, walked out of school last year in protest at government inaction on the climate crisis.
The document also flags young people taking part in non-violent direct action, such as sit-down protests, banner drops or “writing environmentally themed graffiti”.
The disclosure that XR has been listed alongside proscribed groups such as National Action and Al-Muhajiroun is likely to be deeply embarrassing for counter-terror chiefs. They have for years faced claims that Prevent can cross the line to stifle legitimate free speech, thought and dissent.
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Published on the Guardian on January 10, 2020.