Sunday, 29 January 2012

Gypsies speak out against racism | Workers' Liberty

Gypsies speak out against racism

By James, a member of the Eaves Green Gypsy camp in Meriden.

I live in a Romany Gypsy camp based in Meridan near Coventry. It has been a highly-publicised camp – locals have set up a protest group against the 8 gypsy families living there. The campaign is called RAID – Residents against inappropriate development. They’ve been campaigning against us since we pulled onto the land. They’ve stopped us getting into their public meetings, saying “Gypsies aren’t allowed in here”. Our local MP Caroline Spelman (Conservative) attended that meeting where those racist remarks were made.

They have done very bad things in their campaign, including dumping tires on the road and photographing them to discredit us and spreading all manner of rumours about our camp and our people.

The man who made the website for the RAID campaign broke off all contact with them due to their racism and he called us to tell us about the dirty tricks from their campaign. Some locals who started hating us have been driven to sympathy with us by the dirty tricks of RAID and now they come to have cups of tea with us.

We’re private people, we like to keep our business to ourselves. But we’ve had camera crews at the door, filming us going about our day to day lives, taking our kids to school, walking our dogs, walking our horses, taking out our rubbish. They film our day to day life and we’re fed up of it.

We’re fed up of being called travellers when we’ve explained that we’re not travellers, we’re Romany Gypsies. Gypsies have been around for centuries, heritage that goes back to India, our own beliefs and our own language, and travellers have come up over the last hundred or so years especially the Irish traveller community that came about after the Irish potato famine. Then there’s English travelers, and others – New Age travelers from the early 1980s came along later too.

We are not travellers. We are Romany Gypsies. That’s our identity and our people paid for it in the Holocaust. And they keep peering into our privacy and we’re crying out for help and support.

We try to educate our children but it’s very difficult when you’re on the road. The conditions we’re living in at the moment are very difficult. We’ve asked Solihull council to give us somewhere to go and we would happily leave.

The council told us no, that we had not choice but to get on the road, but we can’t because Eric Pickles has made it illegal for travellers and Gypsies to get on the road. We had a public hearing about this and an Inspector failed our camp, but our barrister has found a lot of holes in his case; local anti-Gypsy campaigners trumped up a load of accidents that never took place. We’re going to make an appeal and fight on to stay here.

We’re fighting to stay here but we’re living in muddy conditions where you can’t get on and off the site unless it’s in a four-wheel drive. We’ve got a disabled girl here with cerebral palsy. She walks on sticks and can’t get to her car. If the council would give us somewhere else to go I would happily leave tomorrow. I’d like the people of Europe to see how people live in this condition. In mud. Not out of choice but out of necessity. We can’t go in houses because we won’t live in houses. We want to go somewhere where we can live in our caravans and keep our heritage together.