Wanting to save the planet does not make you a terrorist.
This might seem obvious, but after recent media coverage supporters of environmental groups could be forgiven for thinking the police don’t agree.
And that’s because environmental groups have appeared in Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) documents featured in the media in recent weeks, with some people believing that this means we consider Extinction Rebellion and groups like them to be a CT risk.
Firstly, I want to make it absolutely clear that being a law-abiding supporter of Extinction Rebellion (XR), Greenpeace or any other lawful protest group would not make you of any interest to any part of policing, let alone Counter Terrorism Policing.
Nor do we consider membership or affiliation to XR or other environmental groups to be a reason for entering the Prevent programme.
But when a protest group is gaining influence and beginning to attract a large following, the police need to check that group’s goals and methods don’t pose a security threat and they aren’t at risk of attracting those who might be a threat to the public.
Counter Terrorism Policing currently has a remit to provide this kind of guidance about public order and protest because our national network means we can collate information from across all 43 UK police forces.
The guidance we produce comes with a CTP logo, but that doesn’t mean that the groups have anything to do with terrorism, or even criminality. (Though some do).
And police forces don’t use that guidance to restrict lawful protest. Quite the opposite, it is there so they can assist those that want to protest in a way that is legal and safe.
Our guidance is there to inform police and partners and help their mission to keep people safe, but we understand and regret that some organisations – when seeing our documents out of context – are concerned about being included in them.
We recognise those concerns, and we are responding to them by:
- Updating our guidance in which protest groups appear, making clear why they are mentioned and differentiating more clearly between those which are lawful and those which are not.
- Moving the responsibility for this kind of guidance to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, so that in future it is not produced by CT Policing.
- Offering to meet with some of the groups that have concerns to explain our responsibilities and explore how we can work together.
We want to work together because keeping the country safe from terrorism requires a huge collective effort. We need everyone pulling in the same direction to help us in our mission – to protect the public from the type of violence we saw on Sunday in Streatham. That is, and always will be, our focus