Proscribe ‘extreme protest groups’ like Palestine Action, government advised

Palestine Action has been reported to police for offering tips on ‘smashing windows’ and ‘breaking in’ to buildings


Last month, members of Palestine Action (not pictured) sprayed red paint on the Ministry of Defence building in London (Photo: Getty)

“Extreme” protest groups such as Palestine Action could be banned in the UK under recommendations from a new government-commissioned report.

The government's adviser on political violence, former Labour MP Lord Walney, has recommended a new category for proscribing “extreme protest groups” such as Palestine Action, – which uses stunts and disruption to demonstrate against factories in Britain that produce components for arms used by Israel – and Just Stop Oil.

Lord Walney has made 40 recommendations, including that the government creates “extreme protest restriction orders”, in his report,  which was delivered to Number 10 on Sunday evening.

The Home Office is said to be considering Lord Walney’s recommendations, which would restrict a protest group’s right to assemble in the UK and their ability to raise funds. Lord Walney also held discussions with senior Labour party figures about the report.

According to his characterisation, extreme protest groups routinely use criminal tactics to achieve their aims. If the report’s recommendations are implemented, the ability for groups to cause serious disruption or use criminal offences to influence public debate could be curtailed.

Protest tactics such as the destruction of property, causing injury, or other serious disruption would count against a protest group. If activities disrupt democratic institutions or businesses, a group might be proscribed under the new category.

Earlier this year, ministers reported Palestine Action to police by ministers for allegedly inciting violence in its  "underground manual", which advised protesters on “smashing windows”, and “breaking into your target and damaging the contents”.

The manual told activists: “Smashing stuff can also be very quick to do. With an efficient sledgehammer in your hand, you can cause quite a bit of damage!”

In March, Palestine Action claimed one of its members was responsible for the destruction of a 1914 painting of Lord Balfour at the University of Cambridge. The painting was slahed and covered with red paint.

Last month, activists connected to Palestine Action and another group, Youth Demand, sprayed red paint on the Ministry of Defence building in London.

If implemented, Lord Walney's recommendations could limit the group's activities.

"Militant groups like Palestine Action and Just Stop Oil are using criminal tactics to create mayhem and hold the public and workers to ransom without fear of consequence," Lord Walney said in the report.

"Banning terror groups has made it harder for their activists to plan crimes - that approach should be extended to extreme protest groups too."

The report added that the new restriction orders "would be distinct from proscription on terrorism grounds".

Lord Walney told the JC: “There is common ground across the mainstream of politics to do more to protect our democracy and those who put themselves forward to represent us and to ensure that people’s right to protest peacefully is balanced with the public’s desire to go about their business without disruption or intimidation. Too often in recent months, many Jewish people in London in particular have felt that balance has not been struck.
“These are difficult issues but I hope my review when it is published will provide a basis for consensus between government and opposition and I look forward to exploring further how we can secure lasting change.”

The proscription tool will be viewed as part of a wider effort to combat disruptive protests, with ministers saying they want to clamp down on violent and disruptive activism.

The report also recommends that ministers allow the police to enforce a blanket ban on face coverings at protests in cases where activists may use masks to conceal their identity while committing criminal offences.

A government ban on protests near defence manufacturing and energy sites, is also suggested.

The recommendations come as part of Lord Walney’s review into tackling political violence, which was commissioned three years ago but has not yet been published.

Palestine Action has claimed its actions were in line with most of the British public who, it claimed, want an arms embargo between the UK and Israel.

Responding to the new proposals, the group said: “We are seven months into the Gaza genocide, and Walney thinks this scare tactic is going to make us surrender? He couldn't be more wrong.”

Just Stop Oil said that it is the government that harbours “dangerous radicals that are endangering all of us” through their climate policies.

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