Reading about aggressive policing at this year’s climate camp in Kingsnorth, one learns about The National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU) (their site). In their own words-
The National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU) forms part of the national policing response to domestic extremism, together with the National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism (NCDE), the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) and the National Domestic Extremism Team (NDET).
Our focus is to promote a coordinated, consistent and effective approach to dealing with domestic extremism.
NETCU provides the police service of England and Wales and other enforcement agencies with tactical advice and guidance on policing domestic extremism and associated criminality.
We support the business and academic sectors, providing a centralised source of information, advice, guidance and liaison on strategies to withstand domestic extremist attacks.
We also provide Government and our partners in the police service, Crown Prosecution Service and industry with information about trends and types of domestic extremist incidents and crimes.
Getting the idea? Here’s more-
The term ‘domestic extremism’ applies to unlawful action that is part of a protest or campaign. It is most often associated with ‘single-issue’ protests, such as animal rights, anti-war, anti-globalisation and anti-GM (genetically modified) crops.
The majority of people involved in single-issue protest campaign lawfully. However, there is a small minority of campaigners who seek to further their cause by committing criminal offences.
Domestic extremism has become a concern to many organisations because it targets people and their homes, as well as business premises. Domestic extremism moves beyond the bounds of legitimate protest to intimidate individuals engaged in lawful activity and to impose economic costs on legal businesses. As such, it presents a criminal threat that is national in its scope to the UK and its citizens.
In the context of the climate camp Caroline Lucas writes-
So, as climate campers hold workshops and debate some of the key issues of our time – peak oil, economic downturn, food shortages – scores of police sweat in their riot gear on the other side of the fence. They all clutch a copy of a pocket booklet entitled Policing Protests produced by the ominously titled National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit, which appears designed to provide endless ways of shutting down legitimate protests. One such tactic has been to smash the windows of vehicles parked outside the camp and to try to tow away cars under the Abandoned Vehicles Act.
The police – primarily from the local Medway force but Metropolitan officers are also in evidence – have raided the camp twice now, confiscating items that included crayons, disabled access ramps, marker pens, banners, radios for relaying fire and medical emergency information, the nuts and bolts holding toilet cubicles together and blackboard paint. They have found it necessary to use pepper spray without provocation, and several campers have been arrested and bailed off the site for “obstructing” increasingly aggressive police officers.
Everyone who enters the site is being searched. Police officers are taking anything away that “could be used for illegal activity”, with efforts being made to strip protesters of such hardcore weapons of choice as bits of carpet, biodegradable soap and toilet paper. In the absence of any serious threat, the police clearly found it necessary to justify their presence with an unprovoked attack on personal hygiene.
When I met with Medway police ahead of climate camp, I asked if officers could be given specific information about the ethos behind climate camp and guidelines on proportional responses. I had hoped that the guidelines would be based on sensible use of discretion and grounds of precedent. I am therefore horrified that police here have used pepper spray, riot gear, physical intimidation, and indulged in bizarre confiscations. It almost feels like an attempt to inflame tensions and provoke protesters into less peaceful behaviour.
So that’s what all that technocrat-ese means in its real world application. The Association of Chief Police Officers (who failed to properly investigate torture rendition flights before giving the government a free pass timed to distract from the damning EU report) help deal with the media for NETCU. There is a NETCU Watch blog (focussed on animal rights mostly) but best of all a copy of the NETCU booklet was dropped by a careless copper (part 1, part 2) or available here (pdf). Which is a crib sheet of the numerous ways that the security forces can demand information or find a way to say you have broken a law and then have power over you, together with how to word things legally so the CPS have an easier job. It’s like an anti-civil rights leaflet for those fuzz who weren’t paying attention at police college. Not unknown, but its presence shows the drive by government, the security forces and corporations with their academic arms to push the law to its limits to control protest. Which is why you should never believe it when a bill is being discussed and seemingly draconian measures are explained away as only to be used in specific or extreme circumstances by cheerful politicians & pundits. The law is now like a menu of opportunities for the security forces to control us, this booklet being the fast food version.