Protect the right to protest, says XR activist banned from labor conference
I recently discovered that the police considered me a threat to national security.
It seems he came to this ridiculous conclusion – sadly, but unsurprisingly – because of my involvement in the UK climate movement.
This may require some additional explanation. Three years ago I was illegally banned from the Labor Party Conference, despite being an elected delegate to the conference. I appealed the High Court judgment and Sussex Police backed down. In fact, the request was dropped minutes before the hearing, refusing to justify their ridiculous decision in public.
To me, the intervention seemed politically motivated. I’m a political activist who helped start the climate group Extinction Rebellion. A few months before I was banned from the Labor Party Conference, we had organized one of the biggest civil disobedience events in history. The Metropolitan Police arrested more than 1,000 protesters, wasting £7.5million of public money. But, in the end, the protesters won. The British Parliament became the first in the world to declare a climate emergency and the police were humiliated.
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After the conference, I submitted various freedom of information requests. Finally, I received a heavily redacted document from “Operation Otter”, the police operation surrounding the labor conference. This document claimed that I had participated in an “overt act of direct action protest”; it suggested that I would be “ready to take similar action” again. As a result, the police had concluded that I posed a risk to the “security of the Labor Party Conference”, given the threat I posed to “national security”.
I reject that entirely. I am no threat to national security, although I cannot say that I particularly respect the idea of a nation state or the UK’s racist border policies. I am a political activist, who has met many politicians, ministers and party leaders. It’s true that my politics are rooted in protest and not in parliament, but surely everyone is entitled to their different opinions – there’s nothing ‘extreme’ about organizing a climate protest.