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Police raid 74-year-old Roma campaigner's home

Gratton PuxonPolice disrupt Roma civil rights

Veteran activist Grattan Puxon has revealed that during a raid on his home this week, police seized funds belonging to the Romani civil rights movement. He is requesting their immediate return to enable urgent work to be resumed.

 “Whether deliberate or inadvertent the effect has been to interfere with our civil rights and community activities,” Puxon says. “Feeding the homeless can’t go on and we have a church hall to pay for.”

As a leader of the 8 April Movement, Puxon recently arranged for UN Special Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik to meet with homeless Roma sleeping rough at Marble Arch, a rich central London location. Feeding the homeless had started but now funds for this project are in the possession of Essex police.

According to Puxon, the funds were taken from a cabinet while he was detained in another room. Officers examined the extensive archives of the movement going back fifty years, and took away many documents, including diaries, as well as three computers.

Apart from the intimidation inherent in such a raid, Puxon says pressing practical activities have been halted. The payment due for a booking in connection with Roma Nation Day celebrations and their co-ordination with events across Europe cannot be made.

A massive raid on Travellers at Smithy Fen, Cambridgeshire, and at Dale Farm, with took place at the same time, follows upon the still ongoing Operation Chefornak in central London. The latter is designed to remove homeless Roma from the most affluent districts of the capital.

It has so far involved more than 700 arrests and many so-called voluntary repatriations to Romania. Both Bulgarian and Romanian Roma are suffering constant harrassment in Britain and being denied full EU citizenship rights, according to the 8 April Movement.

Also hampered are preparations by the Dale Farm Housing Association for a tribunal hearing concerning Basildon Council’s four million euro claim against home-owners on the Dale Farm estate whose properties were destroyed during the 2011eviction.

This complex hearing could start in November and, briefly put, involves an attempt by the authorities to force Travellers to pay for their own eviction. Many now live on the roadside next to Dale Farm.

“These are very small funds,” Puxon commented. “But they are vital to us in the campaign for rights – and daily survival.”

 These operations and raids will damage community relations for years, if not generations to come. A chink of light is represented by the upcoming formation of the National Roma and Traveller Police Association. It has a big job to do and so far only two members serving with British police forces.

12 September 2013

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