At least two climate activists were told they did not meet the necessary 'security checks' - with one finding out on the day of the global climate strike.
Two climate activists who had their Labour conference passes rejected say they feel ‘targeted’ by Sussex Police.
Labour delegate and Extinction Rebellion activist Sam Knights, and Chris Saltmarsh – co-founder of Labour for a Green New Deal and People & Planet co-director – were some of a small number who had their applications to attend conference in Brighton refused.
Knights was due to attend conference but on Friday – the day of the climate strike – had his pass application rejected. Saltmarsh only learnt of his pass rejection on Saturday morning.
Sussex Police – who do security checks into Labour conference applicants – told both activists: “We are unable to process your application, as it has not passed the necessary police security checks.”
Police monitoring group Netpol said it was “another indication the police have labelled Extinction Rebellion a “domestic extremist” movement, impacting on everyone involved even if they’ve no criminal record.”
Knights sought legal advice and lodged a judicial review of the decision.
“In view of that, Mr Knights will now be provided accreditation to attend the conference.
Chris Saltmarsh told Left Foot Forward: Labour didn’t know on what grounds he had been rejected – and still had not heard anything about appealing the decision.
But he added: “Clearly the police are punishing environmental activism.” Saltmarsh has a 2017 conviction for obstruction of the highway at an anti-fracking protest in Preston.
Many rushed to the campaigners’ defence. Prof Steve Peers wrote on Twitter: “Very disturbing for police to think that a non-violent demonstrator should be banned from a party conference.”
Labour for a Green New Deal put out a statement saying: “This criminalisation of activists is an unacceptable affront to democracy within our party and the country as a whole. We urge UK Labour to intervene to reinstate activists’ credentials. Labour belonds to its members, not the police.”
At time of writing (5pm Saturday) Saltmarsh had still not had his pass reinstated. He is now seeking a judicial review.
Knights had the police decision reversed after lodging a judicial review on Friday. Correspondence seen by Left Foot Forward shows that by Saturday morning, Sussex Police has caved, writing: “In light of the application made on behalf of your client, a full review has now taken place and Sussex Police concede that a policy was not published and that the criteria for assessing applications was not provided to him in advance.
BIG NEWS: Last night, I requested an emergency judicial review, following my ban from the Labour Party Conference. This morning, the police conceded they had acted improperly.— Sam Knights (@samjknights) September 21, 2019
I would like to thank my amazing solicitor @RaviNa1k. Friends, I’ll see you at conference.
Sam Knights told Left Foot Forward: “[Sussex Police] seem to be targeting young climate activists, which is deeply ironic in a conference that was supposed to be about raising our climate ambition.” Knights was arrested last February taking direct action during a fossil fuel conference, but has no convictions.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for Sussex Police said:
“Accreditation to the Labour Party conference is a partnership activity between the force, the National Accreditation Team and the party, working to an established, nationally agreed framework.
“We will not discuss details of individual applications, but acknowledge that there have been three judicial challenges (out of more than 13,500 applications), two of which have now been resolved. In those cases, we reviewed our decision and those people have now been accredited for access. In the third, the matter will be considered by a court on Monday 23rd.”
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter. At conference? Get in touch with your stories.
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