Labour MP Khalid Mahmood has suggested that eco-extremist protesters from Insulate Britain do not get treated like terrorists because they are white and middle-class.
This week has seen more protests from the Extinction Rebellion (XR) splinter group Insulate Britain, which takes their protests onto the major roads of the UK, blocking ordinary citizens trying to get to work or school. Several figures in politics and the media have condemned the actions of the protesters, particularly after one of its spokesmen, Liam Norton, appears to believe that loss of life due to the protest is acceptable collateral damage in the war against climate change.
In a number of cases, activists blocking the roads have also prevented people from visiting loved ones ill in hospital and even delayed journeys to the hospital resulting in serious injury. In one instance this week, paramedics and motorists were forced to pull protesters from Wandsworth Bridge in an attempt to get an ambulance through.
Insulate Britain have apologised after Boris Johnson called them 'irresponsible crusties' for blocking roads.
— talkRADIO (@talkRADIO) October 6, 2021
“It’s not justifiable, it’s not allowed,” Labour MP Khalid Mahmood said of the protesters’ actions, telling talkRADIO host James Whale on Wednesday that had the protesters not been white and middle-class, they might otherwise be treated as terrorists.
The MP for Birmingham Perry Barr continued: “I think there needs to be an assessment. A mental health assessment of people who have been groomed into this. If you were a terrorist in the more conventional sense of the word, people would say, ‘You’ve been groomed, you need to be deradicalised.’
“Is it because they are white, middle-class people that they can get away with this?”
In recent years some young people have been referred to the government’s anti-radicalisation programme Prevent on suspicion of having been groomed into radicalism by environmentalists and animal rights activists.
Between April 2016 and March 2019, 45 environmental activists had been referred to Prevent, but the Home Office said the majority had their cases closed and only one met the threshold to be referred onto Channel, which is a programme for those vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. Greater Manchester authorities revealed in 2018 that a 14-year-old boy had been “groomed” online by environmental activists.
One English counter-terrorism policing unit in the southeast of England had even listed Extinction Rebellion in an anti-extremism guidance note alongside other dangerous ideologies including Satanism, far-right groups, and Islamist groups. Though after enquiries from the left-progressive Guardian newspaper, officials said the document had since been recalled, claiming XR’s inclusion had been “an error of judgement”.
PM Johnson Calls Climate Activists ‘Irresponsible Crusties’ https://t.co/uHdLEZgnmV
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 6, 2021
Just on Monday, one of Extinction Rebellion’s co-founders Roger Hallam admitted that he would continue protesting in the street even if it meant preventing an ambulance carrying a dying patient to hospital, while members of his splinter group Insulate Britain have likewise refused to clearly answer whether the risk to the safety of human life caused by the protests was justifiable to their cause.
Hallam, who once referred to the Holocaust as “just another fuckery in human history”, had been cited by think tank Policy Exchange for his controversial remarks at an Amnesty International event in February 2019 where he said that XR was not simply “sending out emails and asking for donations”, but wanted to bring down the system “and yes — some may die in the process”.
Policy Exchange’s July 2019 report Extremism Rebellion: A Review of Ideology and Tactics, co-authored by the former head of London Metropolitan Police’s Counter-Terrorism Command Richard Walton, warned that the agenda of Extinction Rebellion’s leaders XR’s leaders was “rooted in the political extremism of anarchism, eco-socialism and radical anti-capitalist environmentalism”.
Brexit leader Nigel Farage also branded XR and Insulate Britain as terroristic in nature, saying: “I now think these people have moved into the realms of being terrorists. They are prepared to risk the lives of other people just because they have this hysterical view that unless we go back and live in caves, billions of people are going to die.”