How climate activists became ‘terrorists’

Criminal defence lawyer Matt Foot reacts to the news that XR protesters have been designated as potential terrorists

Friday, 17th January 2020

Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion protestors

Beware the Terrorists
“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” 

– George Orwell
Nineteen Eighty-Four

AND so it came to pass. Now everyone can relax. The police, despite their ongoing complaints of cuts and lack of numbers, have found an ingenious way to keep us all safe.

They have designated the climate protesters Extinction Rebellion (XR) as potential terrorists.

The Guardian reported: “The climate emergency campaign group was included in a 12-page guide produced by counter-terrorism police in the south-east titled Safeguarding young people and adults from ideological extremism, which is marked as ‘official’.

“XR featured alongside threats to national security such as neo-Nazi terrorism and a pro-terrorist Islamist group. The guide, aimed at police officers, government organisations and teachers who by law have to report concerns about radicalisation.”

We must all be on our mettle. As a criminal defence lawyer, I have a confession.

I have had to deal with these terrorists. I am wondering what my civic duty is. Shall I report to the South East Counter Terrorism Unit about the people they are looking for, “who speak in ‘strong or emotive terms about environmental issues like climate change, ecology, species extinction, fracking, airport expansion or pollution’”?

Do I need to offer up information to Prevent, to prevent these dangerous people from gaining ground? Like the terrifying pensioner, retired social worker, Janet Young.

At the magistrates’ court in October she strode into the courtroom herself, without any contrition, and pleaded guilty to failing to respond to a police order to move from lying on Waterloo Bridge.

She proudly read from her own statement: “I am 72 years old, a lone parent for many years, and a widow. I was a social worker all my working life and have always been law-abiding.”

Classic hallmarks of a lone wolf. She clearly meets the criteria for Prevent, speaking in emotive terms: “I have two children and a five-year-old granddaughter. In December my daughter will give birth to my grandson.

“When she told me she was pregnant, instead of joy I felt fear and anxiety; what future would this child have? Will it have any future at all? But inherit a world of devastation and loss, where few survive and there is no civilisation or rule of law.”

Of course, the subversive ideology was held back, and slipped in at the end.

“There are fires in the Arctic, huskies sledging in a foot of water, no snow in the Himalayas so no water in parts of India, and this is with only one degree C of warming. The idea of two degrees is terrifying and we all know it is happening much faster than we thought.

“The action we took was successful; parliament declared a climate emergency, and climate warming and the dangers to biodiversity are now high on the agenda and in people’s consciousness.

“But still the government fails to act and we are in crisis – each day brings us nearer to the tipping point, the point of no return. We are being punished for bringing to the attention of the world the extinction we face. So when you pass judgment, please consider what we have been trying to do for you and all of us. Thank you.”

How is society to survive if people who care about the environment are allowed to protest, and have the gall to thank the magistrate?

There have been others like Janet, lying on roads, with their good character and their peaceful protests, spreading their dangerous ideas of concern for the planet and its desecration. You can spot them because when the police approach them they don’t even resist. Some of them even apologise to the police.

They come from all over, Janet even came from that hotbed of extremism Devon, a known recruiting ground.

And they have weird occupations, like teachers, builders, students, some of them even work in environmental jobs. One had set up the computer program that shows how much power is used at No 10, in a sinister attempt to make us think about saving energy.

Another had been living in a field generating his own off-grid power, inspired no doubt by the fanatical propaganda in the 1970s sitcom, The Good Life.

One of these XR groups sent flowers to the very same police custody suite that had dealt with them. We must prevent such activity before it’s too late.

• Matt Foot is a solicitor with Birnberg Peirce in Camden Town

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