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Anti-Gypsy racism alive in Essex too

While last minute attempts are being made to stave off the eviction operation at Dale Farm, it now looks certain that a violent confrontation is being forced upon residents by a merciless council. Grattan Puxon reports.

No one could misread the message given out by Basildon District Council through its bully-boy bailiffs at the recent Hovefields evictions. The council seems motivated by blatant anti-Gypsy racism of the same kind seen virulently at work across Europe.

Appeals by two pregnant mothers, the cries of a lad with learning difficulties and children who just want to go to school were ignored. All were evicted with nowhere to go in what the council called a “dry run” before Dale Farm.

Many eyes have been opened by events in France and Italy. Less has been published about the expulsions by Germany, which is transplanting tens of thousands of Roma back to Kosovo - from where they were ethnically-cleansed in l996. Is such treatment taking place in Britain?

Thousands here have been driven from their own land, more shifted relentlessly on by police simply because they have nowhere legally to live. In the midst of events on the continent Al Jazeera called this writer to ask: how does the UK fare in the table of neo-fascist-style behaviour towards an already marginalised and vulnerable minority.

The reporter was recommended to look at the Traveller Times website where Jake Bowers has posted his shots of jackboot justice, including the bulldozers at work in Wickford and the brutal Essex police move-ons, using the notorious s61 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994.

In what is rapidly deteriorating into a no-holds barred contest between Dale Farm families trying to save their homes and the stamp-on-the-camps policy led by communities secretary Eric Pickles, some interesting dirt appears to have come to the surface regarding Basildon’s non-adherence to law and order.

According to one researcher it seems that this district council’s solicitors may have failed to comply with s55 of the Land Registration Act 2002. It is not alone in doing so, if this is the case. Possibly up to £90 billion worth of contracts made with private developers before the financial crash have yet to show up on the Land Register, as required for mortgage deals. That failure could play havoc with council business and it’s a matter legal eagles are keen to exploit, in defence of the exploited when it comes to push and shove.

But meanwhile more conventional political means are being pursued, maybe including a meeting with porky Pickles himself at the House of Commons. Those of us toiling at ground level in this David and Goliath dispute continue to meet up each Thursday at Dale Farm and Hovefields to see what can be done.

The latest is a call for rolls of chicken-wire which non-violent resident defenders say could be useful in impeding the progress of the opposition. No further information for public release. Enough to say that on the weekend before the expiration of Dale Farm’s 28-day quit notice (not yet served), a permanent support camp will come into being at what is one of the oldest and presently most peaceful of Travellers’ settlements in rural Essex.

Still with some residual faith in the law, despite centuries of kicks and knocks, Travellers will be attending Southend County Court for a housing and homeless test case on 20 and 21 October. The issue is should ethnic nomads be forced to live in houses - or will they be permitted (as in planning permission) to continue community life in their mobile-homes. Supporters are invited to come along.

For more information on all this and more email: dale.farm@btinternet.com

5 October 2010

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