THE Swindon branch of Extinction Rebellion has hit out after the environmental movement was branded an ‘extremist ideology’ by counter-terrorism police.

One of its members, John Ranford, said he was “dumbfounded” when he read reports about a police guide listing the protesters alongside banned neo-Nazis National Action and Islamist extremists Al Muhajiroun.

The document is being reviewed and recalled after what a Counter Terrorism Policing South East spokesman described as “an error of judgement”.

Mr Ranford insists Extinction Rebellion's methods are peaceful.

He said: “It’s a complete farce, it’s laughable, we don’t terrorise anyone and are not a threat.

“We are 100 per cent peaceful, we have never been met with violence, we condemn violence thoroughly, expel anyone who is violent and keep our protests peaceful – that’s how we maintain our credibility.

“We have no idea why the police or the public should be afraid of us. Whenever we engage with people, we are generally met with a good-natured response.”

The 12-page document in which the erroneous listing appeared was given to police forces and government organisations. It aimed to help those that read it recognise when people may be vulnerable to extreme or violent ideologies and suggested referring those at risk to the government’s Prevent programme.

Extinction Rebellion’s page described it as “a campaign encouraging protest and civil disobedience to pressure governments to take action on climate change and species extinction.

“An anti-establishment philosophy that seeks system change underlies its activism; the group attracts to its events school-age children and adults unlikely to be aware of this.”

Mr Ranford added: “Publications like that one don’t get published without the copy being looked over, checked and approved. To say this was just a mistake is a pretty poor show, really.

“They know that what they wrote was not true, which is why they’re backtracking.

“It’s a worrying sign that the government is describing peaceful protesters like ours as extreme. Peaceful protests are part of a democracy.

“There’s got to be a way for citizens to protest issues they disagree with. If we lose that, then we become a police state.

“How did it come to this point? Who’s next? Faith groups? The WI? It’s bemusing, though I think this will just be a one-off issue.”

The group polled town centre shoppers on Saturday on whether Swindon Borough Council should aim to have net zero carbon emissions by 2025 rather than 2050. Around 120 people agreed, one person disagreed, and others were unsure.

In a statement, head of Counter Terrorism Policing South East Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes said: “I would like to make it quite clear that we do not classify Extinction Rebellion as an extremist organisation.

“Their inclusion in this document was an error of judgement and we will now be reviewing all of the contents as a result.

“It was produced by CTPSE to assist our statutory partners - including police forces and government organisations - in identifying people who may [be] vulnerable as a result of their links to some organisations.”