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Reject calls for ‘faster and bolder’ police action against demos, peace activists warn

PARTISAN proposals for a “faster and bolder” crackdown on so-called extremism should be treated sceptically, peace activists warned today.

The Commissioner for Countering Extremism Robin Simcox said on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme that extremist ideologies and anti-semitism were on the rise, and said police should make more use of powers to crack down on offences like glorifying terrorism.

He also backed Tory bids to ban the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in solidarity with Palestine and potential broadcasting restrictions on allegedly extremist voices.

“I think that the government has done a lot … they’ve made steps like giving more money to the Community Security Trust, the anti-BDS Bill, some of the legislation around protests, but I do think there’s a chance to go further,” Mr Simcox, former Margaret Thatcher Fellow at the Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom, said.

“Are we doing enough to stop abuse of charities by extremists, abuse of broadcast licence by extremists?”

Free speech campaigners have warned the police are increasingly abusing terror laws to crack down on the expression of political views.

Last week, three Palestine demonstrators were convicted under the Terrorism Act for wearing stickers displaying a paraglider on the grounds it might glorify Hamas, even though the judge acknowledged there was no evidence this was their intention.

Stop the War Coalition’s John Rees told the Morning Star that the government was “on an endless mission to restrict, intimidate, delegitimise and criminalise peaceful and lawful protest.

“They are simply unable to come to terms with the fact that a majority do not support the war in Gaza, just as they did not support the illegal attack on Iraq.”

And David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists Group said rising anti-semitism and Islamophobia demanded more dialogue between communities, praising the large Jewish blocs on Palestine solidarity demonstrations.

He said it was “disturbing” that organisations like the Campaign Against Anti-semitism were “working overtime to ratchet up fear among Jews, labelling any criticism of Israeli actions as anti-semitic and blood libels.

“They have been pressing the police to act on Palestine demos in London … [and] seem very keen to clamp down on democratic rights to protest.”

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