A former police chief has described environmental campaigners Extinction Rebellion as “hardcore anarchists” in a blistering attack.
Richard Walton, the former head of the Counter Terrorism Command, said ordinary people were being “seduced” by the protest group into becoming criminals.
Speaking as Extinction Rebellion launched a ‘summer uprising’ across major UK cities, Mr Walton told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I thought it would be just like any other environmentalist group.
“Sadly, after a lot of deep research it’s very clear that they’re a hardcore anarchist group that want to break up our democracy.
“They have a civil resistance model that advocates mass law-breaking with the intention of actually breaking up the state.”
Arguing that the campaigners, who brought London to a standstill earlier this year, exist to “break up the state”, Mr Walton added: “I would describe this an anarchism with a smile to be honest.
“Many ordinary people, previously law-abiding people have been seduced and enticed into committing acts of illegality and I don’t think they understand the wider agenda that the leadership of Extinction Rebellion espouse.”
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He added: “They are advocating mass illegality both in terms of criminal damage and obstruction of roads, blocking bridges…
“They espouse non-violent protest, which on the face of it sounds great, but there's a wider agenda and I think people need to be aware of what that wider agenda is.
“Their wider agenda is serious disruption to the economy and this is not widely known and it needs to be.”
“They're duping and seducing a large number of people, particularly youngsters, to engage in this cause,” he said.
“This is an extremist organisation by definition.”
Protestors in Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds and London have unveiled a large coloured boat, each named after an environmental activist, with the message "Act Now" on it, as part of their summer protests.
The activists say they are staging a series of "creative acts of civil disobedience", blocking specific locations, bridges and roads as well as holding talks, workshops, people's assemblies and family-friendly activities.
Stephen Lingwood, 37, from Extinction Rebellion Cardiff, said: "People are dying right now of climate chaos in places like India. It's only going to get worse.
"We're at the beginning of the sixth mass extinction and a climate genocide and the Government's inaction is, in my view, criminally irresponsible.”