April: How the Media covered it
The beginning of April saw the effects of the Government’s new ‘Planning Policy for Traveller Sites‘ take effect. In Gloucestershire the local council sought to chase out a well-established community citing new changes in the law. Similarly plans to build four extra Traveller sites near Hemel Hempstead were quietly dumped last month, with a local council leader claiming they were no longer ‘obliged to’. Indeed council after council appear to be revising down their proposed needs for Traveller sites despite record levels of homelessness amongst Traveller, Gypsy and Roma populations. A brilliant blog by Garden Court explains all you needed to know about the damaging effects of recent changes.
On the 8th April Roma, Travellers and Gypsies and supporters from around the world celebrated Roma Nation Day. In London the Traveller Solidarity Network organised a well-attended protest made up of Bulgarian Roma, Travellers and supporters, as covered in a slightly ‘sideways’ manner by Vice magazine. In Romania, Roma activists held up a ‘We support Dale Farm’ banner alongside the Roma national flag in solidarity with travelling communities around the world [see photo]. Celebrations and actions also occurred in Zagreb among many other cities.
Back in the UK, and the racism of two councillors in Brighton we mentioned in last month’s blog came to a head. A public meeting, in which local green MP Caroline Lucas attended was punctuated by jeering from local anti-Traveller attendants. Another local MP, Hove’s Mike Weatherley, had in the run up to the meeting spoken of an ‘illegal invasions’ of Travellers. Despite many recognising the need for new sites in the area, Weatherley was vocal in his opposition to the proposal for a new site.
Later in the month the Irish Times ran an informative piece on the health inequalities faced by Travellers. Also in Ireland, as we covered last month, the Government’s refusal to recognise Travellers as an ethnic minority has remained in the news. Green Party councillor Malcolm Noonan criticised his colleagues over what he called an ‘unease’ with issues regarding the Travelling Community. Noonan proposed a motion asking the council to call on the Irish government to recognise Travellers as a distinct ethnic group.
Back in England and last Christmas Essex police won the right to seize journalist’s footage of the Dale Farm eviction. Many media networks, as well as several freelance journalists came out in protest at this decision. On the 25th April the National Union of Journalists went to the High Court to challenge the production order. Their case is based upon the right to press freedom and many have dubbed these productions orders as means of using journalists as intelligence officers. On this website both TSN and the Network for Police Monitoring issued a statement of support on these grounds. We are still awaiting the judge’s ruling.
Finally, April ended with the depressing news that over a thousand Roma living at a site in Belgrade were forcibly evicted last week. The Serbian government has told many of them they will be rehoused in metal containers.