When protest becomes 'terrorism'
new bill targets activists
from SchNEWS Issue 237, Friday 19th November 1999
"Animal rights, and to a lesser extent environmental rights activists have mounted, and continue to pursue, persistent, and destructive campaigns. While the level of terrorist activity by such groups is lower than that of some of the terrorist groups in Northern Ireland there is nothing to indicate that the threat they pose will go away."
- Home Office consultation paper
Yesterday's Queens Speech confirmed what SchNEWS has going on about over the past few months, when a new Prevention of Terrorism Act was announced. The bill introduces a new definition of terrorism: "the use of serious violence against persons or property, or the threat to use such violence to intimidate or coerce the government, the public or any section of the public for political, religious or ideological ends." Oi! you, pulling up that genetically modified test site, you're now a terrorist!"
This definition comes from America's Federal Bureau of Investigation and will give sweeping new powers allowing the police and security services to target all those pesky protestors that have been getting in the way of big business making a nice profit.
It will also cover foreign-based groups and dissidents living in Britain, giving police and customs officers' powers to seize bank accounts and other assets of suspected terrorists. Would that have meant people in this country supporting the ANC during its armed struggle against apartheid would have been targeted?
Ironically, the new measures are more or less identical to the 1974 Prevention of Terrorism Act emergency legislation, introduced in Northern Ireland, and whose powers were described as "unprecedented in peace time." How ironic that the government announce these brand spanking new sticks to beat protestors with on the same day as the apparent breakthrough in the Good Friday agreement.