Bracketing Extinction Rebellion with neo-Nazis is grotesque. A review of Prevent must now take place
Surprise will have been many people’s understandable reaction to learning that Extinction Rebellion, the environmentalist network, was listed by British counter-terrorism police alongside violent neo-Nazi and Islamist groups in a guide to “extremist ideologies”. The document, issued to schools, included instructions to look out for those who use “strong or emotive terms” when discussing climate change or pollution. Since 2015, teachers have been under a statutory duty to refer students suspected of extremist sympathies to the anti-terror Prevent programme, with education now the main source of referrals (in 2017-18 these included 2009 children under 15).
A suggestion that participation “in planned school walkouts” could be grounds for suspicion is particularly egregious, given that the school strike movement’s stated aim is for governments to act on climate scientists’ warnings. But what is particularly dispiriting about this ill-judged document is that the bracketing of green groups with terrorists is far from a one-off. Instead, and as numerous activists spied on by police in the past know (including an unknown number of women tricked into sexual relationships by officers), the treatment of environmentalists as dangerous subversives is consistent with longstanding attitudes to green issues at the highest levels of the British state.