Animal Protection > Worldwide Actions > United Kingdom
Second thoughts on extreme tactic

full story and comments:

15 December 2011
By David Matthews
Police 'uncomfortable' with 'Orwellian' strategy to root out campus militants. David Matthews writes

Credit: Alamy Watching you: police would prefer to focus only on extremists who extol violence

The government's strategy to tackle extremism on campus pushes officers into the role of "thought police", according to a constable overseeing the policy in London universities.

PC Mark Davis told a group of university representatives that he was not "overly comfortable" with a review of the Prevent strategy in June, which widened its scope to cover "extremism" as well as "violent extremism".

Speaking at the Association of University Administrators' conference in London last week, PC Davis said that the switch in policy was something that his "bosses within the police are trying to work out with the government because it really puts us into the realm of thought police".

He added: "It's not something that I'm overly comfortable [with]. Anyone can be extreme. Police officers can be extreme in their views - we want more pay, we can be extreme about that."

He said that "we're trying as best we can to stick to people who are willing to take that extra step from extreme views [to violence]".

The officer told AUA members that they should consider contacting his team if they found students handing out extremist literature, organising off-campus meetings or exhibiting "sudden changes in behaviour".

The police were "very interested, and you should be very interested, in things like that", he said.

During his presentation, a slide was shown illustrating the different types of threat that Prevent addressed.

It included pictures of a hijacked plane exploding as it hit the World Trade Center in New York in the 9/11 attacks, the aftermath of an IRA bombing, an Animal Liberation Front militant, and a member of Fathers 4 Justice, which disbanded in 2006, dressed as Batman.

As well as covering actions inspired by al-Qaeda and Irish republicans, PC Davis said Prevent also dealt with the activities of animal rights groups, environmental activists and the far Right. But he stressed that his team was at pains not to tell students, "We want you to think in this particular way".

A spokesman for the Home Office said that Prevent "challenges extremist ideology and tackles the radicalisation of vulnerable people".

He added: "It is not about policing people's thoughts but challenging those extremist views that seek to legitimise terrorism."

The Home Office defines extremism as a "vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values". The Metropolitan Police said it was "fully supportive and committed to the revised Prevent strategy".

Readers' comments

Nick Langford 15 December, 2011

If the views of Fathers 4 Justice can be presented by the police as "extremist" then so can any position which runs counter to government policy.

Fathers 4 Justice is (still) a civil rights organisation campaigning for reform of the family justice system so that it better protects the rights of children to maintain meaningful relationships with both of their parents following parental separation. We support the idea of "family" as one which should include the father, not just the mother/child dyad promoted by the political left.

In 2006 we revised the campaign following the dissemination in the press by the Labour government of the preposterous story that we were planning to kidnap Leo Blair. Our aim has always been to reunite children and their parents.
To a far-left, Marxist/feminist mindset we are indeed "extreme"; to those we help we are their last resort.

decadence 15 December, 2011

Leaving aside the other points, I can't see that it's fair to put the blame on Marxists in this connexion. Marx's critique of the bourgeois family was, at least in part, that it had betrayed its own principles - that it had "reduced the family relation to a mere money relation". It is surely capitalism which, in reducing all social relations to the "cash nexus", has undermined the family. The present-day assaults on the family come from all ruling parties, Conservative, Labour and Liberal-Democrat alike - that is, from all the parties involved in managing late and now decadent capitalism. As Bertolt Brecht said, the task of Marxists is to defend moderation against the radicalism of capitalism, which would sell its own mother - or husband or wife - for a percentage point of extra profit. "Fundamental British values" are certainly in danger when vouchsafed to the - extremist - capitalist parties cited above.

John Abell  15 December, 2011
What's a wookie?

DrGrumbles  15 December, 2011

Does the crusade against extremism and recruitment on campus extend to those groups willing to collude with and even equip known terrorist groups in order to further their aims, i.e. the British Army and security services?

What is campus extremism?  16 December, 2011

The White Rose group may have fitted these categories. Secretive, they hid their identities, met off-campus and circulated literature encouraging students to rise up against their government. Of course they were asking students to rise up at Ludwig Maximillian Univeristy in 1940's Munich. A caretaker saw them dropping literature on campus, reported them to the Gestapo and they were beheaded after kangaroo trial. They were, of course, a peaceful, non-violent group.

Universities are placed where ideas circulate, and where students may develop strong ideas which they hold onto and later mature out of. Universities are places for ideas and debate. When this spills over into something more sinister (ie violent direct action) there is clearly a line to be drawn. But drawing that line to early and too strongly, may be entirely counter-productive.

material for thought   16 December, 2011

There was a chap from Trinity College Dublin who took the extreme view that the material world does not exist.

In fact, you can't get much more extreme than that.

DrGrumbles  16 December, 2011

Didn't he get shot in the face after imagining himself on the London Underground?

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin,