Expect a summer of protests and disruptions if the coalition government continues what has been called a campaign of harassment and criminalisation, say Gypsy and Traveller communities.Oh, noes! The travelling ‘community’ is going on strike!
How will we cope..?
Eric Pickles, the communities and local government secretary, has said he wants to revive elements of the Conservative's 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act that turns trespass from a civil into a criminal offence. This will mean that Travellers who refuse to move from land that is not privately owned by them could be arrested by police or forcibly evicted.About time!
Pickles has also announced his intention to scrap new rules giving Gypsies and Travellers a "level playing field" in planning disputes with local authorities.Except it plainly wasn’t giving them a level playing field – it was granting them the upper hand.
No wonder the Guardian threw those scare quotes in…
Jake Bowers runs the Gypsy Media Company, which provides education about Gypsies and Travellers, and presents Rokker Radio, a BBC programme for the Travelling community. He says that after a relatively benign period in its history, "the noose is tightening around the neck of the Gypsy and Travelling community".Hey, bring it on! Didn't you hear, Jake? Nostalgia is in!
"If the government continues along these lines, Britain will see resistance and campaigns of civil disobedience on a scale not seen since the 60s," says Bowers, who grew up on the road as one of 17 children.
There have already been discussions among the UK's 300,000 Gypsies and Travellers about holding a series of co-ordinated protests, including jamming the motorway network with caravans.And that’ll be different from any other British summer how..?
"We're ideally suited to disrupting the motorways: we live on the road, so it makes no difference to us to stop on the fast lane of a motorway for a couple of days," says Bowers. "There will definitely be a lot of non-violent, civil but radical actions if things carry on like this.You said it…
We do it every day anyway: just our continued existence is an act of civil disobedience."
Needless to say, the parasites that make a tidy public sector living off tending to their human milch cows are getting the wind up too:
A local government Traveller liaison officer, who wishes to remain anonymous, says he has had to abandon plans for a new site after cuts to the budget of the government-funded Housing and Communities Agency. But he believes the policy will cost the government more in the future. "I can see caravans driving around Westminster. I can see petitions. I can even see them taking their lobbying to Europe," he says.I can see them failing at all of those too. The wind has changed. The money’s run out. The Righteous can’t afford their pets any more…
Brindley admits that the community is bitterly disappointed by the support the Liberal Democrats are giving the proposed legislation. "Lib Dem policy towards Gypsies and Travellers has always been pretty much in line with Labour policies, which, though not perfect, had been quite positive over the last 10 years," says Brindley. "But the coalition's new policy has been very much shaped by the Conservatives."Well, the LibDems are dim, admittedly, but they are not that dim.
They’ve tasted the power that comes from being in government at last, and they aren’t about to rock the boat just yet…
A group of 25 academics and campaigners have come together to lobby the government to reconsider its policies. Marion Horton, who has done research with Gypsies and Travellers for over a decade, says: "I was sickened that the new government would target, in the most iniquitous way, one of the UK's most deprived and discriminated against minority ethnic groups. If we're going to live in a humane society, we have to stop persecuting people and abusing our laws by using them to address our racist assumptions.Well, I’ve got a little list, Marion!
"It's easy to be frightened by people we don't know and don't understand. But if we let the government persecute this minority, which will they turn to next?"
The free rides at the expense of everyone else stop here…