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Extinction Rebellion protesters
photography Daniel Wong

Extinction Rebellion has been listed as extremist by police

The climate protesters were placed alongside neo-Nazi terror groups in an ‘official’ guide

Counter terrorism police in the south east of England are facing a backlash after including the environnmental movement Extinction Rebellion in a document defining and outlining extremist ideologies. 

The 12-page booklet places the group alongside openly pro-terrorist groups including specific far-right, neo-Nazi, and jihadist organisations. 

Sent out to police, teachers, and government workers, the booklet encourages them to report others that display one or more of the “signs” to the already-controversial Prevent programme. The programme is intended to combat radicalisation and stop ideologically-motivated atrocities, but has inevitably led to claims of unjust profiling and restricting freedoms of speech and education in the past.

In the booklet, Extinction Rebellion is defined as: “A campaign encouraging protest and civil disobedience to pressure governments to take action on climate change and species extinction.” (Sounds good so far, TBH.)

And why is it supposed to be a threat? In part, because “an anti-establishment philosophy that seeks system change underlies its activism”.

The booklet also notes that “while non-violent against persons, the campaign encourages other law-breaking activities” (though, since the high court ruled the police’s London-wide ban on Extinction Rebellion protests last October illegal, they can’t really talk). 

By now you’re probably wondering, what are the signs of Extinction Rebellion radicalisation? Well, the booklet suggests watching out for materials bearing the group’s hourglass logo or slogans including “tell the truth” or “rebel”. Also: “People speaking in strong or emotive terms about environmental issues like climate change, ecology, species extinction, fracking, airport expansion, or pollution.” (Wait, am I a terrorist?)

Jokes aside, the booklet has since been recalled, with officials accepting that Extinction Rebellion isn’t actually an extremist group, the Guardian reports. They have also distanced themselves from Counter Terrorism Policing South East, which circulated the document. But the fact the document existed in the first place still raises some pretty disturbing questions, mainly about how the government – whether at a local or national level – continues to crack down on the much-needed climate conversation (and, in fact, any political dissent).

“How dare they?” says a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion. “Children up and down the country are desperately fighting for a future.”

“In a world of misinformation, where lies travel faster than the truth, we can’t help but wonder was this a deliberate attempt to silence a legitimate cause. Wouldn’t it be nice if they focused on the real extremists – the fossil fuel companies and those that do their bidding?”