Behind the scenes of the police ‘domestic extremism’ unit

With the huge protests of March 26th just passed, and with the prospect of many more as the coalition presses ahead with huge and unnecessary cuts to the public sector, more and more of us may need to know exactly how we can expect the police to respond to us if and when we take to the streets. This article from the Red Pepper website details the activities of the NCDE (National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism). If you’re thinking of making your views known to those in power, you’ll want to know all about the NCDE — and perhaps even start protesting against them, too.

The thrust of the piece is that the NCDE — currently funded by £8 million of public money a year, yet totally unaccountable to the populace at large — is set to come under the auspices of the Metropolitan Police for an apparent boost to the unit’s democratic credentials. Whether this will actually be the case is highly debatable.

The NCDE — consisting of three units under the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) — has a history of overstepping the mark of public protection and gathering data on anyone bold enough to show their face at a rally, march, or peaceful protest. For all that it sounds terribly official, by the way, the ACPO is actually a private company engaged in lobbying government and steering policy. As you might expect of such an organisation, its sympathies seem to lie very much more with other private companies than with the general public.

As such, you can expect to attract the attention of the NCDE if you, say, assemble to protest the existence of an arms factory that facilitates the murder of thousands of people per year. As a private company operating legally (if grossly immorally), the NCDE protects their right to manufacture weapons rather more assiduously than your right to object to them manufacturing weapons.

That’s true even if you happen to be 85 years old. John Catt, a pensioner from Brighton, has fallen foul of the ‘domestic extremist’ classification after being placed under surveillance at over 80 demonstrations. On no occasion did he break the law.

Red Pepper claim that “while the move into the Met will in theory provide accountability and oversight … in reality little will change.” The NCDE will continue to gather data on people who dare to speak up for democracy and the public good, with little recourse for anyone they decide is a bad egg. This is a state of affairs that needs to be far more widely understood and objected to. It poses a grave threat to democracy.

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