Security Minister, Brandon Lewis, has responded to coverage regarding CT Policing guidance that included protest groups and the Ukrainian coat of arms, following his statement in the House of Commons earlier today.
Security Minister, Brandon Lewis:
In recent days I have seen media coverage of the guidance produced by CT Police which includes protest groups, and unfortunately a lot of misreporting and ill informed commentary attempting to link this with the Government’s Prevent strategy.
I want to take this opportunity to respond to these reports and correct some of the false assertions made from people who, quite frankly, should know better.
Firstly, as we and the police have said, protest groups are absolutely not considered to be extremist groups.
The Counter-Terrorism Policing South East document which listed the protest group Extinction Rebellion alongside extremist groups was an error of judgement and I welcome the fact that this has been recalled by the police.
Another was the “signs and symbols” document which the police designed to help police officers identify what is and is not lawful that they might see in their day-to-day work.
I know the inclusion of protest groups in documents like these without context can be concerning, which is why I welcome the police’s quick response in clarifying their position.
Some coverage has also claimed that both sets of materials were drafted and issued as part of the Prevent programme. This is simply untrue.
Membership or support of such groups does not mean that a person is considered a threat by us or by the police. It certainly does not mean that people who are part of these groups should be referred to Prevent.
The Prevent programme is about safeguarding and protecting individuals to protect them from becoming terrorists. I’ve seen the amazing work of the Prevent network in stopping vulnerable people being drawn down a very dangerous path, and I am positive that it has helped save lives by turning people’s lives around and stopping them from becoming terrorists.
Prevent is there to protect people from radicalisation and involvement in terrorist groups, such as proscribed organisations like National Action and Al-Muhajiroun, who deliberately incite violence and hatred.
Prevent is certainly not concerned with protesters who want to bring about change through peaceful protest. Even non-violent civil disobedience, which may constitute criminal behaviour, is of no interest to Prevent.
The right to free speech and protest are cornerstones of our democracy, which I and this Government are committed to protecting. The Prevent strategy in no way, shape or form undermines this commitment.