Friday, 27 August 2010

Who Are The "Principal Environmental Extremists"?

The Scotsman's crime reporter has been regurgitating more police propaganda today about last week's Climate Camp, with a piece that includes the following:

Police chiefs feared that a hardcore group of climate camp activists planned to launch a bid to shut down Edinburgh Airport during the protests.

Officers had gathered intelligence that the ringleaders of protests which previously targeted Heathrow Airport were descending on the Capital.

Intelligence also suggested that the M8 and M9 motorways, Princes Street, and the Tattoo may have come under attack in a effort to cause "maximum economic disruption".

UK police forces have identified around 100 "principal environmental extremists" operating across Britain, and Lothian and Borders Police believe up to 50 were in Edinburgh for last week's protests.

Instead, hundreds of protesters camped outside the Royal Bank of Scotland's global headquarters at Gogarburn, with sporadic attacks on other city bank branches.

Assistant Chief Constable Iain Livingstone today said: "We knew that RBS would be a potential target and the bank has premises across the city.

"But we built up intelligence that suggested Edinburgh Airport, the M8 and M9, the city's banking system, Princes Street and the city centre, and the Tattoo, were major targets".

"We had spoken to RBS and they were happy to allow the camp to go ahead there. It allowed us to contain and control the protest away from where they could have tried to cause maximum disruption.

"The impact if Princes Street had been forced to close during the middle of the Festival would have been great. It was one of a number of genuine targets. Instead, the group was largely confined to an area on the west side of the city."

So who exactly are these 100 or so "principal environmental extremists"? The Scotsman identifies "extremists linked to the Plane Stupid campaign, which saw 1000 eco-warriors bidding to close down Heathrow three years ago". So that's definitely Greenpeace's Joss Garman on the list then.

What this refers to of course is the database held by the shadowy National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit, which is part of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). It justifies the holding of information about protesters, including completely lawful ones, because they are potentially "witnesses to acts of criminality or anti-social behaviour" or have "attended several events where violent disorder has occurred". NETCU says that this "helps the police to do their job effectively", because "collecting the right information helps the police to protect democracy and lawful protest". Anton Setchel, ACPO's National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism, has gone even further, with this telling comment the Guardian:

"Just because you have no criminal record does not mean that you are not of interest to the police," he said. "Everyone who has got a criminal record did not have one once."

NETCU 's purported definition of 'extremist' is allegedly very specific: it says it means those who "try to mask their activities by associating closely with legitimate campaigners", who use tactics such as "malicious letters and e-mails, blackmail, product contamination, damage to property and occasionally the use of improvised explosive devices" and whose "aim is to create a climate of fear". But the trouble is, most of those who end up on its secret lists are entirely legitimate campaigners who support and even celebrate non-violence. NETCU is just an excuse for widespread surveillance of anyone who participates in protest - on the basis that everyone taking part is, in Assistant Chief Constable Setchell's eyes, potentially guilty until proven otherwise.

The claim that "principal environmental extremists" were descending on Edinburgh looks like another example of the Scotsman repeating whatever they are told by their police minders - about as convincing as the lies circulated by Lothian and Borders Police claiming that "a substance similar to diesel or vegetable oil" had been spilled onto two major roads by climate activists. Could it be that having sufficient numbers to successfully target the Royal Bank of Scotland's headquarters - which has "attracted criticism from some senior politicians for 'failing to clamp down sooner' on the Gogarburn protest after activists sneaked on to grounds" - has strained a few coppers' nerves north of the border?

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Journalist = message delivery bairn!

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