Police Raid on Smithy Fen : An Account
On Tuesday morning over 50 police officers raided several homes at Smithy Fen, a Traveller site in Cambridgeshire where we have many friends. What made this heavy-handed assault even more egregious was that a number of those raided faced eviction less than two years ago at Dale Farm. The picture is still unclear, although many in the mainstream media have already employed their usual racist drivel. Here is an account of what has happened so far. I encourage you to read it.
‘The warrants were specifically for “telephones, telephone boxes, sim cards, data storage devices that are able to store photographs and access social networks, cameras, financial documents, satellite navigation systems, receipts, stolen property”. In reality they took everything – pictures, furniture, phones, kids phones, bank cards, everything from any storage spaces. A friend said, in her words, “a complete load of junk she had ready for a car boot sale” – pages and pages of removed stuff. They went through everything – even bins, under trailers, under beds, seats, pulling off plastic protective covering from seats, scratching furniture and leaving cupboard doors broken open in at least one trailer. She wasn’t even left with enough ID to be able to collect her benefits this week – they took her payment card and her passport and all the documents she might possibly use.
Worst of all the police raided an elderly friend, who had very recently moved onto the yard because she is too sick to be any distance from her family. She has no connection to the person who they claimed to be searching for. She is currently on a nebuliser and looked really sick when we got there. Really swollen and I hardly recognised her for a minute. She had been outside in the cold in her dressing gown, surrounded by police raiding her property, since dawn – having come outside to show identification they locked her out while they raided her trailer and wouldn’t let her pee without watching her! Like in her really unwell state she was going to run or something…
Then they checked the electricity connection outside her yard – which isn’t hers – she’s just staying there temporarily because she’s so sick – and they said that the meter was disconnected which meant the electricity wasn’t being properly paid for so they called in EDF who came and disconnected the power supply. It’s left several yards without any electricity, including my elderly friend with the nebuliser she’s supposed to be using four times a day. Later the kids came home from school – having left in the middle of a massive police raid – to police still all over their homes/yards, and no power. No hot drinks, no hot food – no comfort after all that – no light, no warmth, no dinner. The police said it was the decision of EDF, but they instigated it and called in the power company. What they have done is arbitrarily cut off the power supply without any warning or discussion with the people living on the yards affected, including a number of kids and at least one really ill person – who hasn’t even been on the site long enough to have any culpability.
And anyway, it’s to ensure a community keeps things like its power supply and other basic amenities that ‘Traveller liaison officers’ are paid – that’s their job – to advocate for the community. This is one of very many utter failures of duty of care to the local Traveller population. In fact there’s been no ‘council liaison‘ in sight – or contactable. Apparently, quite conveniently they’re busy at another site – hard to think what would have been more urgent than a load of kids without electricity and 50+ police officers raiding their homes*. It really feels like a total stitch up. With the historic planning permission battles ongoing it seems they’re just hoping to get rid of as many families as possible while they can.
The residents are looking after each other. But it’s some sick coincidence that quite a few of the families whose places have been turned over are families who were evicted from Dale Farm. For them it feels like they are being hounded. Actually to me too. Police dawn raids, power cuts… The police had obviously tipped off local news as they were there with the police at dawn. There’s lousy footage of half naked men being arrested who haven’t had a chance to get dressed. It’s humiliating and I think abusive footage to put out. But they all love a good raid-a-Traveller-site story. And the police love to give it to them.
*The next day one liaison officer turned up with a police escort! This is ridiculous and insulting to people who’ve just been raided by the police