Surveillance on anti-fracking campaigners
On 11 June 2018, London’s Information Rights Tribunal ruled that the police cannot refrain from providing information to the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) on how often anti-fracking activists are referred to a secretive “de-radicalisation” programme based on national security reasons. Netpol brought the case to court after the Information Commissioner supported five police forces who rejected the requests for information about “Channel”, a deradicalisation programme which part of the UK government’s controversial Prevent strategy. Prevent is a referral system for people identified as “vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism”.
Netpol reported that the police tendency to disregard the request for transparency on national security grounds “is a long-standing concern for many campaigners alarmed about the scale of intrusive surveillance on political dissent”. Leaked documents had exposed how “the security services and police have been using Prevent to monitor not just Muslim activism and charitable work, but dissent and “subversive activities” that go well beyond ideologies that “draw people into terrorism” including anti-war, anti-fracking, pro-Palestinian, anti-austerity, animal rights campaigns.
Netpol coordinator Kevin Blowe commented:
“This document shows how completely subjective the terms ‘domestic extremist’ and ‘extremist symbols’ are: no wonder the police and the government have failed to pin down a legally robust definition.”
Dr Les Levidow, of the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), said:
“As this guidance illustrates, the vague criteria/requirements of the Prevent programme are predictably turned into an agenda for stigmatising political dissent, perhaps intentionally…”.
The Tribunal’s ruling highlighted the need for more transparency about the way the Prevent strategy and Channel programme operate, as both “can only work if [they have] widespread public understanding and support”.
Cuadrilla awarded injunction as the anti-fracking campaign begins
On 1st June 2018, the High Court ruling in favour of the shale gas company, Cuadrilla, issued an interim injunction prohibiting protest actions that would harm business at its site in Lancashire until 10th July. Cuadrilla had sought an injunction until 2020, however instead an interim injunction was issued until 10th July when a further hearing will take place.
Reclaim the Power (a direct action network fighting for social, environmental and economic justice) is organising the Break the Chain 2018 campaign which is targetted at the fracking industry and its supporters. The campaign began on 12th June and ended with Block around the Clock, during which a small group of demonstrators blocked the entrance to Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site in Lancashire for 54 hours. The demonstration blocked all truck deliveries to the site during this period.
Reclaim the Power’s Kate Robertson commented:
“Fracking is a major threat to public health and does not offer meaningful secure jobs like a thriving renewables industry would. Local people have repeatedly rejected it, but are now faced with a double attack: from companies resorting to bullying tactics, and a government now taking further steps to deprive residents of the right to decide whether their community should be fracked
She went on to outline the movement’s intention to continue challenging any individual or organisation facilitating the fracking industry in the UK.
Speaking in reaction to the court decision, Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said:
“This injunction does not restrict lawful and peaceful protest but is an important deterrence against unlawful protest.”
Netpol says it has evidence of strategic cooperation between the fracking industry and the police who “appear to share the extremely narrow view that protest is only “peaceful” if it registers symbolic opposition but causes zero disruption”. According to Netpol, to build the case Cuadrilla used a previous injunction won by INEOS (a manufucturer of chemicals and oil products) in 2017. Netpol highlights similarities in the injunctions presented: firms gather evidence online about their opponents, including social media activity, to support their claim of an imminent threat. However, the restrictions target “persons unknown”, not named individuals. As the CIVICUS Monitor previously reported, measures like this force “demonstrators who wished to challenge the order to become formal defendants, thus exposing themselves to the risk of fines and imprisonment.”
Victims of spy cops support Lush in campaign for full disclosure of undercover policing
Victims of Undercover Policing have expressed solidarity with Lush, a manufacturer and retailer of cosmetics, that is under pressure and intimidation from the police due to its support of the #SpyCops campaign to expand the public inquiry on the secret policing of political protest groups and social movements. According to the Centre for Crime and Justice studies, reforms have so far only addressed how undercover policing is carried out, which now places stricter regulations on police officials. These changes however, do not take into account the pressing issues of transparency and accountability.
Rebecca Lush, Charitable Giving Coordinator at Lush and environmental activist, commented on the campaign:
“When Theresa May launched this public inquiry we all hoped that the truth about this scandal would finally be exposed and that the disgraceful police tactics would be examined. Instead, the public inquiry Chair is making the inquiry more secretive and is granting the police anonymity in secret hearings. It is time the Home Secretary listened to the victims and appointed a diverse panel to hear the full evidence.”
In the solidarity with Lush letter, the victims of undercover policing write:
“The cosmetics retailer Lush has used its facilities to help us as victims press for full disclosure and reform so that this never happens again. This is not an attack on police; it serves to help all those in the police service who wish to uphold the highest standards of policing. For this, we thank Lush for its support. We condemn those who have misrepresented Lush and our campaign and especially those who have sought to intimidate Lush staff. #WeStandWithLush”
London’s Met Police will not use facial recognition at Notting Hill Carnival
London’s Metropolitan Police announced that it will not use the controversial facial recognition technology during the Notting Hill Carnival. The technology has been used during the event since 2016. The Carnival takes place during the August bank holiday weekend.
Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, commented:
“We are delighted that the Met has seen common sense and will not be targeting Notting Hill Carnival with facial recognition again this year. However, we are troubled by the force’s plans to dramatically increase use of facial recognition over the next six months.”
Concerns remain over the lack of a “clear and enforceable legal framework for the use of the technology”. The intrusive technology is often deployed without adequate notice to the public, which may dissuade them from attending an event, particularly if it is a protest. Campaigners urged more transparency in the use of the technology. The Met confirmed that trialing of the technology will not stop.
Featured image: Reclaim the Power