The former head of the United Kingdom’s Prevent anti-radicalization team is taking police to task for listing Extinction Rebellion as an extreme ideology in a publication designed to help stop terrorist violence.
“The publication produced by counter-terrorism police in the south-east showed police had placed XR on a list of ideologies alongside neo-Nazis and Islamist extremists that should be reported to the authorities,” The Guardian reports. Prevent sent the guide to police officers, teachers, and other public agencies, before recalling it and admitting the error.
Sir Peter Fahy, who led the unit from 2010 to 2015, said that’s the kind of mistake that damages the force’s reputation and undercuts the community confidence that underpins its success and legitimacy.
“Prevent is about stopping terrorist acts against people or property and XR is not in that territory at all,” said Fahy, who’s also a former chief constable of Manchester. “XR is about lawful protest and disruption to get publicity—it is very different from terrorist acts.”
XR lawyers were expected to write to police earlier this week demanding the guide be withdrawn, not just recalled, and asking “whether anyone was referred to Prevent as a result of it being issued,” The Guardian says.
“It is patently absurd to put a non-violent movement of people urging the government to take action on the climate and ecological emergency on a list of extremist ideologies,” said Tobias Garnett, a member of XR’s legal strategy team. “This is not extremism, it is level-headedness in the face of scientific consensus and fires that now rage from Australia to the Amazon.”
Fahy said it was “clearly disappointing” to see a non-violent group included in the guide. “Prevent has to be about safeguarding people from becoming involved in terrorism,” he told The Guardian. The unit “does depend on having the confidence of communities, and for instance of teachers, because you need them to have confidence they can feed in information and it will be used proportionately. Unfortunately, this does risk damaging confidence in Prevent.”