An exclusive in the Guardian today informs us that police forces around the country are gathering the personal details of thousands of activists who attend political meetings and protests, and storing their data on a network of nationwide intelligence databases.
According to the report, police have termed the people in question "domestic extremists"; seemingly to ensure that they get their hands on a chunk of the £9m terrorism budget currently available to the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).
The report also states that protesters are being tracked via a nationwide system of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) CCTV cameras, while Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) and Evidence Gatherers record footage and take photographs of campaigners as they enter and leave openly advertised public meetings.
Now, while protests can occasionally get out of hand and some protestors are more violent and have admittedly dangerous motives for their actions, the vast majority would not come anywhere close to deserving the euphemistic title of a 'domestic extremist'.
What this report really shows is that in the age of violent extremism, much like the explosion in CCTV and the gregarious use of RIPA by local authorities, the police would rather use the emotional knee-jerk of extremism to make their lives easier – damning plenty of otherwise law-abiding citizens by association.
People have a right to protest in Britain and not be considered a criminal for doing so.
By Dylan Sharpe