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Gypsies Regroup as Caravans Burn

Ustiben | 24.03.2006 12:32 | Anti-racism | Repression | Cambridge

Burned out caravans alongside
the London M25 motorway bear witness
to the ever worsening plight of Britain's
350,000 Gypsies.

Scorched by the flames of a seemingly
unquenchable racism, Travellers are
determined to step up efforts to gain
respect for their homes and their
human rights.

Earlier this week, I reported on the
home-crushing that has taken place at Five
Acres Farm, only a few minutes drive from
the charred trailers at Birchfield Lane. And
much, much more is going on unseen and

Hundreds of families face eviction
following the failure of Law Lords to protect
caravan-dwellers with no-where legally to live.
This has given a green light to local authorities
bent on ethnic-cleansing who know that despite
a new Government circular urging land provision
for Travellers, councils are unlikely to get much
stick if they carry on "clearing encampments".

For the past four years, the Gypsy
and Traveller Law Reform Coalition has lobbied
for legislative change. It has had a moderate
success through the inclusion of assessment
needs for Gypsies in the 2004 Housing Act. But
no results from this are likely to be seen on the
ground for some years yet.

Moreover, it is now apparent that hiring a
lobbyist cannot be a satisfactory substitute for self
representation. Indeed, bringing in outsiders was
almost bound to cause uncomfortable inner tensions.
Some have begun to complain, I think unfairly, that
salaried staff in the burgeoning Gypsy industry,
benefit a tad more than their Traveller "clients".

However, it is the upsurge in eviction activity
let loose by the Lords ruling and the frightening
rise of racism which has led to a demand for a radical
change at the top in the UK Gypsy rights campaign.
A meeting of the most influential Gypsy leadership
took place in Matlock, Derbyshire last Saturday
(18 March) to call for the dismemberment of the
flagging G&TLRC. It could hardly continue without
them unless prepared to tough out accusations
of blatant usurpation.


A proposal for a formal dissolution of the
coalition is to be tabled, I understand, at its
annual general meeting on 3 April. Waiting in the
wings to take forward the campaign, under Gyspy
control, is a new federation of frontline Traveller

"The coalition did some great work,"
says Cliff Codona, chair of the UK Gypsy, Traveller
and Roma Forum. "But it has gone as far as it
could and needs to be replaced."

Codona, who has just returned from a
meeting with Roma leaders in Budapest, says
the Forum is giving the UK campaign a growing
international dimension. He is confident the federation
will provide the grass-roots, working eventually to
a common strategy in England, Scotland and

Links with Ireland, through yard-owners
at Dale Farm and Smithy Fen, Britain's two largest
Traveller communities, are already assured. Here
the defence of homes and human rights has its
footings in the firmest ground, a fact of which the
Government, and a besieging anti-Gypsy opposition
led by Tory MP John Baron, are well aware.

Significantly, the historic assertion of rightful
leadership, by Romanies and Irish Travellers alike,
is happening on the eve of Roma Nation Day, 8 April.
The Forum-sponsored Red Wheels Against Racism
festival, an event which promises to bring together
all those involved in this powerful resurgence,
also marks the 40th anniversary of the foundation
of the original Gypsy Council.

Meanwhile, in the run up to a meeting
with the Office of Deputy Prime Minister on
6 April, a name and shame initiative has started
against private companies hired to carry out
ethnic-cleansing operations. It is on these firms,
which have looted and burned Gypsy property
across Britain, that racist councils depend to
do their dirty work.

We are already well acquainted with
Constant & Co., the self-styled Gypsy eviction
specialists. They tore up Cliff Codona's model
Woodside caravan park, in Bedfordshire, and
fired trailers and huts at Meadowlands and Twin
Oaks Farm, in Essex and Hertfordshire. The total
of their crimes against humanity builds by the

Joe Jones, of Gypsy and Traveller Affairs,
reports that Constant has cut a swathe of
destruction through Kent. At the same time, and
often in partnership with Constant, police officers
in that county, as elsewhere, ignoring recent efforts
at diversity training in Travellers' needs, continue
to hound families on a daily basis.

But there are also new boys on the block
earning their living off the suffering of others.
H.E.Services, of Rochford, again sent their heavy
vehicles to Basildon last week. For the first time,
during the Five Acres Farm eviction, I also saw
Terranova Group machines in action alongside
Constant. For anyone who cares to let this
Reading-based outfit know that you know what's
going down, the email is:

Please also add your name to the
Worldwide Save Dale Farm Petition