From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
A cosy Dale Farm myth
Wednesday 19 October 2011
Politicians who defend the use of massed riot police to enforce the eviction of Dale Farm residents should consider the effect of televised images on Britain’s reputation.
If this had happened in a country that our government disapproved of, David Cameron would have denounced state violence and ethnic cleansing.
But he and his apologists seek to portray Dale Farm as an issue of law and order based on the traveller community’s refusal to follow normal legal paths.
This cosy myth ignores the reality that, despite decades of anti-racist legislation, discrimination against Gypsies and Irish travellers remains widespread and largely unpunished.
A modern, inclusive society ought to be able to tolerate small communities that follow their own culture, provided that this does not harm the rest of society.
That was the reasoning behind the Labour government’s 2004 Housing Act obliging local councils to provide traveller sites to enable an itinerant culture to flourish alongside its settled counterpart.
Unfortunately, anti-traveller prejudice led many councils, largely Tory, to ignore their legal responsibilities and to direct Travellers to sites in neighbouring council areas.
Those who pontificate about Gypsies and travellers having to abide by the same laws as the rest of the society should explain why they remained silent when some councils flouted the law by not providing sites.
This was particularly so in Essex where there was effectively a blanket rejection of all traveller applications for a site, resulting in no legal pitches being provided for a decade.
It is not surprising that, faced with this institutionalised racism, some travellers chose to buy land and build their homes before applying for planning permission.
Far from this being an outlandish peculiarity of the Traveller community, it happens frequently with regard to housing construction and extensions or alterations to existing structures.
Planning authorities then have the choice of giving backdated approval or of ordering demolition and restitution.
In 80 per cent of cases, backdated approval is agreed, but this falls when the applicants are travellers to just 10 per cent.
Basildon Tory council leader Tony Ball has personalised the Dale Farm situation, promising non-traveller residents last year that he would either push through the evictions by this autumn or resign his position.
He and his council portray their anti-traveller stance as a defence of the green belt, although they have approved other applications for housing on green-belt land by non-traveller interests.
Additionally, although Dale Farm is classified as green belt, the site is actually based on a former scrap yard.
It is as though Essex Tories, in demanding the eviction of Dale Farm residents without planning permission, have taken a deliberate decision to provoke a confrontation with them for political reasons to show that they can act tough against a national minority.
This assessment is strengthened by the well-publicised agreement of the Prime Minister to cough up £18.5 million to cover the cost of this politically motivated eviction.
The military-style operation by dozens of riot police to drive people out of their homes will not have improved the Essex green belt in any way.
It will have made a number of families needlessly homeless, forcing them to look for alternative accommodation in a hostile environment.
And it is likely to further demean Britain’s international reputation, especially if the evicted families take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Dale Farm protesters tasered as eviction erupts in violence and flames: here.
Riot Police defended their use of tasers on Dale Farm residents and supporters after a dramatic dawn raid today morning – the last stand of Britain’s biggest Irish traveller community.
HUNDREDS of riot police stormed through the rear perimeter fence into the Dale Farm compound at 7am yesterday morning, injuring female residents that they pushed to the ground and causing children to scream in terror: here.
Did “intelligence” on Dale Farm protestors come from undercover police agents, asks Kevin Meagher: here.
Last stand at Dale Farm as police evict residents: here.
A history of racism against travelling people: here.
A British girl has asked the queen to keep her from being evicted, writing: “As you have lived at Buckingham Palace for so long I thought you might understand how we feel”: here.
- Former Dale Farm residents ‘left living in squalor’ after eviction (guardian.co.uk)
- Travellers target Eric Pickles on anniversary of Dale Farm eviction (socialistworker.co.uk)
- Dale Farm families reflect on ‘bad year’ (bbc.co.uk)