Netpol, a front for anarchist activists

Yesterday, a group called Netpol issued a call for a review of policing tactics at anti-fracking protests. But they got everything backwards, and it's hardly surprising.

 

In order to improve its standing, Netpol described itself as a human rights organisation. On its website, it says "The Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) seeks to monitor public order, protest and community policing that is excessive, discriminatory or threatens civil rights."

It doesn't say who is behind the organisation, or who funds it. But it does give a postal correspondence address as

CIU Offices
Durning Hall Centre
Earlham Grove
London
E7 9AB

from which it was possible to establish that Netpol Limited exists as a Company Limited by Guarantee (registered number 07859667) with a number of directors.

The company was incorporated back in 2011 by an Emily Apple from Penzance in Cornwall. She's also the activist behind Fitwatch which looks like it may have been the predecessor to Netpol (or they're kind of the same?) based on this Guardian piece where Emily talks about Fitwatch being closed down.

You can follow Emily on Twitter (@emilyapple) where you'll learn from her bio that she's also the weekend editor of...The Canary.

The Netpol.org web domain is registered to Val Swain from Cardiff. She's listed as one of its directors (although Emily isn't anymore). A quick search soon finds that Val and Emily have a history of activism going back over a decade. They were arrested together at a climate change camp at Kingsnorth power station in Kent in 2009, Val was also arrested that same year for protesting against the Israeli ambassador's visit to Cardiff, and she was also arrested and imprisoned in 2003 for her part in an anti-McDonald's campaign.

Another director of Netpol (actually, he's the Company Secretary) is Kevin Blowe. He has his own blog and here freely admits to being an anarchist. Kevin also says he's involved in the Newham Monitoring Project.

Coincidentally, so is another of Netpol's directors, Estelle du Boulay who is also a director of Rights of Women and Tindlemanor.

Another Netpol director is Samuel Murgatroyd Walton. Guess what? He was one of the two people that trespassed on the BAE site at Warton in Lancashire.

Can you see a theme emerging here yet?

Netpol has produced a set of factsheets for anti-fracking activists to help them evade arrest and successful prosecution if charged with offences. It also has a list of recommended solicitors that take criminal cases and have experience of working with activists - among its recommended firms are Bird & Co, Bindmans, Kelly's and Robert Lizar that you may have heard of.

In short, it sounds exactly like the kind of organisation that would paint a deliberately biased and unfavourable picture of police behaviour, while making out that the activists involved in anti-fracking protests are all tea drinking, cake eating grannies.

And that's just what it's "report" has tried to do.

In reality, it's got it all back-to-front. The behaviour that needs to be called into question is that of the activists who, with the help of groups like Netpol, twist and exploit human rights laws in order to try and justify - then get away with - unlawful behaviour at protests.

Since the start of 2017 and up to the end of September, there have been 320 arrests made for a variety of offences linked to the anti-fracking protests in Lancashire. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has sanctioned charges in over 92% of cases, clearly believing it to be in the public interest to prosecute offenders.

This provides an indication of the amount of unlawful activity that's gone on and which the police have had to deal with, deploying on average 100 officers a day to the location of Cuadrilla's Preston New Road shale gas exploration site.

Netpol is wholly wrong to suggest that the policing response in Lancashire has been anything but proportionate and necessary.

If it weren't for a small number of hardened national activists intent on causing trouble, the protests on Preston New Road could have enjoyed a much more low-key policing response. As it is, the police have had no choice but to maintain a large number of officers at the site just-in-case.

When officer numbers have been scaled-back, activists have been quick to take advantage.

Netpol and the people involved in it aren't in the least bit bothered by the costs of policing the fracking protests. In truth, they probably want to see the costs escalate further. They're also not really bothered about fracking either - it just happens to provide a convenient platform for their politically motivated activism.

And it's clearly not what most right thinking people would consider to be a human rights organisation.

In fact, Netpol is just one more in a complex web of people and groups that are intent on dismantling the state - and certainly can't be taken seriously as an impartial observer.


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  • Ken Wilkinson
    They really are trying to justify illegal ‘direct action’. A very well balanced piece BF.
    I did see that the Rowntree foundation have something to do with Netpol.
  • Jackie Stewart
    No surprises there then. The snowflakes will no doubt say that you are making it all up for as we all know facts are banned in their little world.