the Disillusioned kid: First they came for the animal rights activists...
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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

First they came for the animal rights activists...

Yesterday, thirty people were arrested for alleged involvement in "extremism" in dawn raids carried out across the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. Predictably the media are lapping it up, providing extensive quotations from the police, with minimal analysis. This time, however, it isn't Muslims they're after, but animal rights activists. This ought to be worrying and not just for people involved in animal rights activism.

NETCU is the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit established to facilitate the policing of "domestic extremism." Now, in an era of international terrorism and post-7/7 this might not seem so unreasonable, but pay careful attention to the definition of domestic extremism they use:
Domestic extremism is the term used to describe any unlawful or recognisably anti-social act carried out as part of an 'extreme campaign'.

It is often associated with campaigns focused around a single issue, such as animal rights.
Violence, you will note, does not figure here, mere illegality is sufficient. If you think that this is merely me being paranoid, I urge you to consider their definition of a "lock on":
A 'lock on' is when a domestic extremist fastens him/herself onto an object to cause an obstruction or disruption using a padlock in combination with arm tubes to make it difficult for the police to remove the individual, the object or both.

Lock ons usually involve several domestic extremists and can involved the use of multiple arm tubes, barrels, vehicles, clamps, D-locks in combination and at more than one location.
"Domestic extremists" appears to be the new term for what used to be known as "activists" or "campaigners," but those terms presumably lack the required shock value. It should be clear that the term has nothing whatsoever to do with violence. It is, after all, pretty difficult to be violent when you're fastened to somebody or something. (As if to underline the point, the front page of their website utilises a picture of the Clown Army.) It's certainly a definition which incorporates myself. How long then before the police are turning up at my house at 5.30 in the morning, and how long before anybody sees me again?

Going off on a slight tangent for a moment, NETCU have been particularly interested in animal rights activism (although they've been spotted on anti-GM demos). Of course, they claim to be "impartial." Tellingly, however, a perusal of their links page reveals a number of explicitly pro-vivisection organisations, but not a single animal rights group. As NETCU Watch ruefully note, not even the RSPCA merit a mention. Whatever one's opinion on vivisection (I'm sceptical about its value, but not actively involved in opposing it) this ought to raise a number of difficult questions. Personally, I find it difficult to avoid the conclusion that it is essentially a political police force set up to render activism ineffective.

NETCU, of course, is merely one element within the state's repressive arsenal, which has blossomed (if you'll excuse the confused metaphors) under New Labour: surveillance cameras are now ubiquitous; unauthorised protests in Parliament Square are illegal; solidarity with armed resistance groups is a criminal offence; Asbos can ban activists from whole areas; ID cards are on the way; and so on and so forth. Typically, the mainstream media seem happy to toe the line on all this. Stopping things getting any worse is going to be up to us. We'll just have to hope they don't arrest us all before we manage it.

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