Terror police swoop on Dale Farm wedding
By Grattan Puxon
For young Danny and Nora it should have been the happiest day in their lives. The service at Our Lady's Church, Wickford, had been a truly community event for Dale Farm. A stretched limousine had just brought them to the wedding reception at London's fashionable Canary Wharf.
A hall had been booked twenty-five miles from Basildon in the hope of avoiding trouble from racists. But it was the Metropolitan Police who turned up to provide the row. As wedding photographer and freelance journalist Jess Hurd positioned herself for an outside shot she was pounced upon by the boys in blue.
It's not known who called the Met to the Ramada Hotel. But as soon as Hurd began to pan in the squad car as part of the story of harassment suffered by Travellers, she was told to stop under Section 44 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Her camera was taken forcibly from her for examination.
They then questioned her on suspicion of carrying out a terrorist recce in what is admittedly a sensitive area close to the city airport.
However, even a blind man could have figured she was part of the wedding celebration, as the joyous guests were in evidence close by.
Needless to say, Hurd is incensed by their conduct and will be taking it up with lawyers. She is also reporting the matter, as a member of the National Union of Journalists to a conference in Paris tomorrow.
Her scheduled topic is the treatment of Roma in Europe. She intends to highlight the long-running siege of Dale Farm and the threat to bulldoze this established Traveller village.
Richard Sheridan, president of the Gypsy Council, whose nephew Danny Sheridan was getting married to fellow Dale Farm resident Nora Quilligan, also celebrated his 40th birthday on 10 December.
"This incident could hardly have been more inept or offensive," said Sheridan. "Being at a young couple's wedding reception and on Human Rights Day."
It was the third of four weddings held in quick succession by families at Dale Farm anxious to solemnize marriages before the New Year when Court of Appeal judges may rule that Basildon council can put into action its much delayed eviction operation.
Forty-two years ago, on 10 December 1966, the Gypsy Council was founded at a pub in Kent with a No Gipsies sign painted on the door.