Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Dale Farm Update & Thoughts

News is still sketchy but there were at least 2 arrests when around 50 bailiffs from the notorious Constant & Co., supported by 3 van-loads of police and a number of Basildon District Council officers, attempted to enter the Hovefields Drive site to evict families and their caravans from 7 sites. Bulldozers were used to tear up the ground works in order to prevent the caravans return.

The bailiffs were met by a number of protesters who had gathered in advance of their arrival to try and prevent the eviction but they were overwhelmed by sheer force of numbers. As one observer said: "The bailiffs came in at eight in the morning and told everyone they had to leave immediately. I think it's been pretty violent in how they were dealing with things."

One Hovefields resident, who managed to get a High Court injunction following last month's issuing of 28 days notice of eviction by the Council, remained on the site following the bailiff's action. As to the fate of the other residents forced out, some of the children involved were being sheltered by other Dale Farm residents but many of the families no doubt spent the night parked up on the side of the road somewhere nearby.

The whole Dale Farm saga is indicative not only of the nimby attitude of residents to gypsies, travellers and Roma in general, but also reveal a widespread racism that lurks just below the surface of polite society. This almost universal stigmatisation of Roma and travellers has lead to centuries of persecution and marginalisation within society, resulting in the 'self-fulfilling prophecy' of a whole group of peoples who just wish to be left alone to live their lives as they see fit.

Yet, 'normal society' want them to assimilate, to settle down and be just like them. Failing that, to just go away. But 'society' refuses to accept any of the blame for creating 'the problem'. I Eastern Europe the centuries of persecution of Roma and traveller folk developed into official state policy, reinforcing and legitimising this racism. Even now, governments are struggling to undo this structural persecution, the condemning of a particular group of people to being second class citizens. Having their children singled out for sending to inferior schools, then being denied access to further eduction or jobs; denied housing and health care; access to the courts; all simply because of who their parents are. Basically Apartheid under another name.

Now this problem, which has existed on a smaller scale through out the rest of Europe* has move on to our doorsteps and the consequences have been played out in the headlines and T.V. news reports in France recently, and before then in Italy. In those cases, the Roma have moved in order to flee that persecution only to run into the same sort of racist resentment and stigmatisation, dressed up in the guise of protecting law and order.

In the Dale Farm situation exactly the same forces are in operation.

* One only has to think of how many derogatory terms for gypsies and travellers are in common usage to work out how true this is.

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