An Alternative Way To Prevent Extinction: Extinction Rebellion labelled a terrorist organisation

February 6, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

The environmental protest group “Extinction Rebellion” (XR) has been listed as a terrorist organisation on the controversial police guide, Prevent.

What does this mean?

Under Prevent, the government possesses the right to investigate what it deems potential terror threats. Since 2015, local authorities have a statutory duty to report individuals they believe are at risk of extremism. XR has been added alongside groups such as National Action, a far-right terrorist group, and al-Muhajiroun, a militant Jihadi group based in the UK. The police later admitted the group’s inclusion was a “mistake”. 

Jules Carey, the lawyer who worked for XR when it successfully argued against protest bans last year (for more on the protest ban, see our article on that here), has commented that the guidance is illegal.

What's the big picture effect?

The Prevent programme is no stranger to controversy, and this latest blunder will only add fuel to the already lit fire. 

While it is important to identify any potential threats, it is imperative to note the clear differences between terrorists and eco-activists. So far, XR has exclusively engaged in peaceful protest. 

Placing XR on the list would also disproportionately affect children, who, following the lead of Greta Thunberg, are at the heart of climate change protest following a number of school walkouts in 2019. It would potentially open up thousands of children to intrusive investigations from the government. Carey has argued this would lead to serious human rights violations, including freedom of speech, thought, and the right to a private life. 

Prevent is already under independent review, however a new reviewer has not been appointed since Lord Carlile stepped down following legal action accusing him of bias. It is likely this error, as well as the threat of legal action by XR, will add further pressure to reform the programme.

Report written by Conor McDermott

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