Joshua Virasami writes about the current state of affairs with policing and the use of the term 'Domestic Extremist'
Thursday 5th February was Domestic Extremist Awareness Day 2015. It is the second year in a row that NetPol have celebrated by encouraging people to, ‘find out if secret records are held about them by making subject access requests to the Metropolitan Police’s National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit’.
Just over 3 years ago, after a politically motivated arrest by the City of London Police that led to permanent back injury and whiplash, I was placed on a conditional bail whereby I could no longer step foot in the City of London. During this bail time I lived in the Occupy London camp at Finsbury Park.
Late one evening over discussions it was brought to our attention that local businesses had been receiving letters from City of London police, in regards to our presence in the area. The letter was so deeply troubling that I called the police and arranged to meet with them to discuss its authenticity. It was genuine.
By the next afternoon The Guardian and The Independent were covering it, but the general public and media glossed over this incident far too quickly. This bold tactic by the police was part of the creeping precedents that will, if left unchecked, pave the way for an unprecedented crackdown on ordinary people. Put simply, the letter showed how law enforcement now unequivocally equate effective protest with terrorism.
It was after a period of serious arrests, scare tactics and brutal policing that the City of London police released the letter in discussion. The letter outlined the substantial threat of "international terrorist" groups such as FARC in Colombia, Al Qaeda in Pakistan and the Provisional IRA, it then, on the same note, went on to list the substantial domestic terrorist threat of Occupy London.
This is an extremely dangerous tactic by the state law enforcement, manipulating the rhetoric of terror in order to create a fervor of fear around protestors will only further divide society. The current context is that today the general public are on edge, and the ensuing ‘probability neglect’ gives way to consent toward unfounded measures in order to prevent terrorism. This cycle of empowering law enforcement and dividing communities will not end well.
By calling somebody a domestic extremist/terrorist we rob them of their humanity. By constantly identifying immigrants with domestic terrorism we rob brown and black bodies of their humanity, more than is already the case. It is a tactic that has been used against black and brown bodies for decades; as part of the war on terror we have dehumanized millions of brown and black bodies across the Middle East and Asia.
Almost 30 years ago radical black liberation group MOVE! In Philadelphia, after years of raids and arrests experience the end game of the state identifying protest/alternative living with domestic extremism. Not long after they were identified as a domestic threat, they were bombed by the state of Pennsylvania, on U.S soil.
The hysteria being whipped up around potential terrorist threats is totally unwarranted, the fact remains that you are more likely to be struck by lightning, killed by the police or injured by race based arson attacks than killed by international or domestic terrorism.
The psychological game we’re being immersed into is a violent one. I fear for my safety on the tube when the headlines of newspapers keep linking immigration to domestic terrorism, and ordinary people fear my brown skin, headscarf and opinions. As the polarities become concrete, it becomes a simplistic either or paradigm; we either conform to the new protocol on domestic extremism or we are an extremist ourselves.
Although I long for equality in society, running too fast for the train or protesting against the status-quo might lead to incarceration or death, for being a domestic terrorist. If we exercise some national lucidity we’d recognize that those who seek to label others as such, are fast filling the criteria for domestic extremists themselves.
The policies out of City Hall pushing locals out of communities and into poverty, the educational structures which perpetuate racism, the corporate war on women, this is Domestic Extremism. The corporate elite, which includes nearly every mainstream politician, are the only Domestic Extremists and the full weight of law enforcement should be brought down upon them.
Joshua Virasami is a musician, writer and activist.