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Counter-terrorism policy is a threat to democracy | Letters


We are deeply concerned at the inclusion of peaceful campaigning organisations in a counter-terrorism police document distributed to NHS trusts, schools and safeguarding boards (Report, 18 January). The suggestion that campaigning for peace, environmental justice, human rights and animal rights, and against racism, should be regarded by those safeguarding the public as extremist activities is grotesque.

This provides yet more evidence of the threat posed to core democratic values, including free speech, by the government’s counter-terrorism agenda. This document must be immediately rescinded. But there is also an urgent need for a full, and proper independent review of the Prevent strategy.

More widely, we collectively support the demands of the Network for Police Monitoring’s Protest Is Not Extremism campaign, which calls on the police to stop categorising campaigning and protest activities as “domestic extremism”, for a clear separation of protest policing from counter-terrorism, and for better protection for campaigners against surveillance. This must include independent oversight of how the police use surveillance in relation to political protest. These proposed measures are essential to defend our right to political engagement and peaceful protest – and indeed to defend democracy.
Kate Hudson General secretary, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Ben Jamal Director, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Lindsey German Convener, Stop the War Coalition, John Sauven Executive director, Greenpeace UK, Isobel Hutchinson Director, Animal Aid, Weyman Bennett Co-convener, Unite Against Fascism, Sabby Dhalu Joint secretary, Stand Up to Racism, Jane Tallents Trident Ploughshares, Angie Zelter XR Peace

How have we got to the point where those campaigning for environmental justice are now regarded by the state as potential terrorists? One answer to this is that this is not a new phenomenon. For decades, state agents and politicians of both major parties have sought to extend the definition of subversion – as Merlyn Rees, the former Labour home secretary, did in 1978.

In 1981, a former senior police officer, Harold Salisbury, defined subversion as “anyone who shows affinity towards communism, that’s common sense, the IRA, the PLO and I would say anyone who’s decrying marriage, family life, trying to break that up, pushing drugs, homosexuality, indiscipline in schools, weak penalties for anti- social crimes … a whole gamut of things that could be pecking away at the foundations of our society and weakening it”.

In fact, it is the views of those like Rees and Salisbury, and their contemporary equivalents, not the attitudes of those engaging in perfectly lawful activities, which are undermining and pecking away at the democratic foundations of this country. Such attitudes and pronouncements are designed to discourage popular participation in democratic action for fear of being labelled domestic terrorists. Is there any other country in the world, which claims to be democratic, where those campaigning against badger culling have been placed on a terror list? Even having to ask this question clearly illustrates the further intensification in the authoritarianism of the state.
Prof Joe Sim
School of Justice Studies, Liverpool John Moores University

The only surprise about police monitoring the likes of Greenpeace should be that anyone is surprised. Those of us with longer memory and experience know that the police and their co-workers, special branch, MI5 etc, have always treated members of such groups as dangerous radicals and extremists to be watched. In the 1980s I was a member of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and CND; I was illegally detained and photographed at a peaceful demonstration where the police, mostly not local, were under the direction of a special branch officer. I expect I have a file somewhere, which will have to be dusted off when I chain my Zimmer frame to the railings in protest at the importation of chlorinated chicken.
Andrew Gold
Seaton, Devon

On Monday three of my friends from Manchester XR presented themselves at their local police station to register as potential “terrorists”. They were politely received and offered a cup of tea. Their only complaint? There was no vegan milk.
Lisa Battye
Oxton, Merseyside

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