A counter-terrorism police document distributed to medical staff and teachers as part of anti-extremism briefings includedGreenpeace, Peta and other non-violent groups as well as neo-Nazis , the Guardian has learned.
The guide, produced by Counter Terrorism Policing, is used across England as part of training for Prevent, the anti-radicalization scheme designed to catch those at risk of purchased terrorist violence.
Last week, police said documentsuncovered by the Guardianthat listed the environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion (XR) alongside far-right extremists and jihadists were a local error .
But the list of groups viewed as a potential concern contained in the new 823 – page document includes Extinction Rebellion. It also includes Greenpeace – among whose supporters are Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Gillian Anderson and Joanna Lumley – and the ocean pollution campaigners Sea Shepherd, whose supporters include Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan. Also included is Stop the Badger Cull, which is backed by Sir Brian May, the Queen guitarist.
They appear alongside a number of extremist rightwing groups including Combat 90 and the National Front, as well as National Action, which has been banned for terrorist violence. The last page of an accompanying visual guide seen by the Guardian advises people to report “any concerns identified via this document” using an online portal for reporting suspicious activity that is operated by Counter Terrorism Policing under the slogan: “Action counters terrorism”.
Policeinsist the guide is not meant to portray all the groups that it features as extremist and thus needing to be reported to them. They said it is meant to boost understanding of the signs and symbols people may come across, and point to a statement in the document that “not all of the signs and symbols noted within this document are of counter terrorism interest”.
However, on the visual guide the disclaimer appears to refer specifically to a set of religious and historical symbols used by white supremacists including “Odin’s Rune’, “SS Runes” and “Thor’s Hammer”. Mainstream leftwing and environmental groups are not similarly marked.
Non-violent groups featured in the document were furious at their inclusion. “Tarring environmental campaigners and terrorist organizations with the same brush is not going to help fight terrorism,” said John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK. “It will only harm the reputation of hard-working police officers … How can we possibly teach children about the devastation caused by the climate emergency while at the same implying that those trying to stop it are extremists?”
Peta’s director, Elisa Allen, said: “This appears to be a sinister attempt to quash legitimate campaigning organizations – something that is as dangerous as it is undemocratic.”
A spokesman for Extinction Rebellion said: “The guidance document makes it clear that not all the signs and symbols are of counter-terrorism interest. However, if that’s the case, why include them in a counter-terrorism document? ”
Politicians were also critical of the document, with Labor leadership candidate Lisa Nandy called the inclusion of peaceful climate crisis groups “absolute nonsense”.
Among the groups listed with no known link to terrorist violence or known threat to national security are Stop the War, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, vegan activists, anti-fascist groups, anti-racist groups, an anti-police surveillance group and campaigners against airport expansion. Communist and socialist political parties are also on the list.
They feature alongside numerous groups associated with the ideology of violence of the far right, and the terrorist group National Action, which is proscribed, as well as two other banned groups. There are also a set of symbols and tattoos commonly associated with white supremacy, from a swastika and a “white pride worldwide” poster to tattoos of an iron eagle and the second world war German general Erwin Rommel.
The guide, from June 2020, bears the logo of Counter Terrorism Policing on every page, and was presented in briefings to public sector workers.
One senior teacher, who supports the efforts to thwart radicalization, said they received the document as part of Prevent training at their educational establishment: “The document was given with the guidance that teaching staff could use it to identify symbols that students might draw or have about them and to enable staff to make a decision about whether it is a Prevent concern or not.
“The document is extraordinarily vague and leaves a great deal down to the interpretation of the individual member of staff,” the teacher added. “Clustering relatively innocuous groups like Greenpeace and CND in with genuine extremist groups seems to imply that these organizations are on the radar of the counter-terrorism police and should also be interpreted as such by the teaching staff coming across them.”
Police said it was “unhelpful and misleading” to suggest non-violent groups in the document were being smeared. They said it would be provided to Prevent partners as “a guide to help them identify and understand the range of organisms they might come across” and should not be viewed as suggesting that membership of “non-proscribed groups would be sufficient to trigger a Prevent referral ”.