Not Another Dale Farm
Nathanay-All speaks about the Fight for Sites ahead of Thursday’s public meeting.
‘Not Another Dale Farm’ is something I hear a lot. But it’s a versatile phrase.
For groups of racist local residents, the phrase warns of ever allowing families of Travellers and Gypsies to live near ‘us’. For local councils and the Department of Communities and Local Government, the phrase reminds their officials and lawyers to ‘get on with the job’ quicker. Evict now, ask questions later. Don’t let any of these Travellers stay, unless they get the idea they have the right to a home.
But for those who recognised what the Dale Farm eviction a year ago was really about – a state-led assault on a Traveller community – the phrase is a rallying call in the struggle for equal treatment. As one TSN member said on the day of the eviction last year “this attack on the lives of Dale Farm families will fall upon the conscience of all of British people”. For all those who were there on 19 October 2011, there was no doubt that this could never be allowed to happen again.
And yet as we arrive at the first anniversary of the brutal eviction, it does not feel as though this is the case. At Dale Farm, dozens of families are homeless, stuck on the roadside near their former home with little access to electricity, water or healthcare.
Local newspapers propagate fear-mongering headlines daily: Fears over Leeds Traveller site ‘ghetto’, Anger over Traveller camp on Burnley Park, Fears that plans for Traveller’s site in Horsford could become ‘another Dale Farm situation’. Such stories are not an unusual occurrence; Travellers and Gypsies are portrayed as ‘problems’ and outsiders. Horsford ward councillor John Starling said of Traveller planning permission applications, “Residents in the village are not against one pitch. But having set a precedent of one pitch, the likelihood of ‘relatives’ moving in could soon see caravans coming on to this site.” Of which other ethnic minority would it acceptable to say that only one family can live in an area?
One of the most astonishing things about the Dale Farm struggle is that throughout, the families living on land that they had owned for over 10 years were portrayed as outsiders to Basildon. Could you imagine this being the case for a settled white family moving into Crays Hill? This is racism in its purest form; an equivalent to the BNP’s ‘there’s no such thing as a black Englishman’.
Underpinning such prejudice is a chronic shortfall of Traveller and Gypsy sites in the UK. Dale Farm brought out a lot of issues, but primarily this was, and still is, an issue about accommodation and lack thereof. Conservative estimates suggest a shortage of over 4,000 pitches for Travellers in the UK, but in 2006 the Commission for Racial Equality found that a quarter of Travellers and Gypsies have no legal place for their caravan, and things by all accounts have got worse. In other words at the very minimum, one in four are homeless.
An EHRC report in 2009 found that accommodation, or lack of it, was the ‘key to understanding the inequalities and barriers’ faced by Travellers and Gypsies. Lacking a place to live can mean serious problems in accessing healthcare and education, but also leaves these communities vulnerable to harassment and prejudice from local government, racist residents and police. Until Travellers’ and Gypsies’ right to a home is recognised, and they are welcomed as part of local communities, horrific evictions like the one we saw at Dale Farm last October will continue to happen.
At tomorrow’s meeting, we are bringing together activists, experts, campaigners and Travellers themselves to discuss what ‘not another Dale Farm’ means to us. Join us at the launch of the Fight for Sites campaign to share experiences, ideas and tactics to end evictions and fight for the right to a home: come along!
Jessica, member of the Traveller Solidarity Network
Jessica has worked with Travellers as part of first Dale Farm Solidarity and then the Traveller Solidarity Network for several years. She will outline the aims and objectives of the Fight for Sites campaign, as well as talking about what it means to be an activist working in solidarity with travelling communities.
Richard Sheridan, former Dale Farm resident and head of the Dale Farm Housing Association
Richard Sheridan has been a central part of the resistance from Dale Farm residents to eviction. He will join us to discuss his experience of the ten-year struggle to stay at Dale Farm, the ultimate eviction, and its implications for the Dale Farm community.
Matthew Brindley, Irish Traveller Movement of Britain (ITMB)
Planning expert Matthew Brindley from ITMB will join us to explore the wider context of the planning policy that effectively denies Travellers and Gypsies the right to a home. The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain have supported applications for families at Dale Farm in recent months, as well as focussing more broadly on planning policy.
Weyman Bennett, Joint-Secretary, Unite Against Facism
Any struggle for Traveller, Roma and Gypsy rights must be fought alongside anti-fascist and anti-racist groups, who are as much a part of our struggle as we are of theirs. Weyman Bennett, long term anti-racist campaigner and joint-secretary of UAF will join us to talk about how to fight fascism and racism against Travellers, Roma and Gypsies.
Raj Chada, Human Rights Lawyer, Hodge, Jones & Allan
Raj Chada worked on many of the cases that emerged from Dale Farm, leading to Basildon Council dropping many of the prosecutions against those who opposed the eviction in October 2011. He has spoken of a ‘campaign of police intimidation’ conducted against campaigners for Traveller rights last year. He joins us to explore the legal situation and how we can resist evictions.
Plus… the launch of our Fight for Sites short film!