Thankfully signs like these are part of a past history that seems unbelievable now. Did we really think it was acceptable to discriminate so blatantly? Over decades of social change and legislation we undoubtedly become more tolerant and open. One can argue that such prejudiced views still exist, but they are less obvious now.
The battle for Dale Farm in Essex is coming to a climax. At great expense (estimated at £18m) Basildon Council are in the final stages of evicting the travellers who live on a part of the site without planning permission.
The land in question was purchased in 1996 by Travellers for £122,000 from someone who used it as a scrapyard. It was not an ancient forest, historical building or anything else of value. It was a scrapyard in the countryside that was next to an established traveller site.
There are similarities to an incident that happened locally to where I live recently.
The future closure of a local waste site on the border of Wakefield and caused such an hysterical reaction, that the only conclusion I can come to is that the such prejudice against Travellers is alive and well.
The site is currently a council tip belonging to Wakefield Council. It was due to close in 2012, and it was revealed in an answer to a question tabled by a Councillor, that it was proposed to turn it into a Travellers site.
Councillors from the wards in both Wakefield and Kirklees which are adjacent to the site. Very quickly a petition began. Feelings were running high. Formal objections were raised. Here are some examples:
“To put this briefly, why should the many people who regularly pay their way (sometimes struggling to do so) be overridden by people – such as travellers. When the travellers are in an area there is a fear of crime and sites are trashed and rubbish is left. On a personal note, there will be a slightly higher safety issue when dog-walking during early morning and evening.”
“We strongly oppose the planned travellers/gypsy site at owl lane, shawcross. We live in close proximity to the proposed site and we do not want the noise, nuisance and constant doorstep selling, harassment and in the past we have been victim of theft from passing travellers”
“I would like to make my protest against turning owl lane tip into a camp site for travellers, its bad enough on Sundays when they have the car boot sales cars are parked all along owl lane and sometimes come up into the village, if you do let travellers live here we will have traffic jams seven days a week, anyway let them buy a proper home like me and pay taxes like everybody else.”
A public meeting was held in Ossett Town Hall and nearly 700 residents turned up. Dewsbury MP Simon Reevell stated he had never seen such anger at a public meeting. He launched a petition against the proposed change. Simon Reevell, and a number of Local Councillors have received what is clearly ‘good’ publicity for bringing such a controversial issue into the headlines.
Wakefield Council has since stated that the proposal has been dropped and the site will remain as a waste tip beyond 2012.
It is so sad that negative stereotypes about Travellers remain strong and largely uncontested by politicians. While politicians obviously need to listen to their Constituents, they also need to challenge incorrect and nasty stereotypes and defend minorities, when the frankly the selfish and ignorant views of the majority threaten them.
i totally agree. there was a similar uproar about travellers where i used to live, it was virtually pitchforks at dawn. what they failed to mention was the input that the travellers gave to the local economy – buying from local shops, drinking in local pubs, using the local library, hair & beauty facilities and generally helping to keep a small village shopping parade alive and well.
It is a frightening display of chauvinism and prejudice. These are people trying to change their situation, to comply with the rules of the society they have been plunged into. To come to terms with what is expected of them. Only to be condemned and rejected by those they seek to emulate. Each person deserves the opportunity to take control of their lives and fulfil their desires. It is not up to councils, landowners and hysterical neighbours to judge what is proper or legal.
My observation is that prejudice against travellers is widespread. Going hand in hand with that is ignorance of who they actually are and how they live. I also think it’s a very socially acceptable prejudice. People say things about travellers that they’d never say about other ethnic minorities. The left needs to recognise that travellers’ rights are a major issue, work with traveller groups and try to change the social and legal climate.
I no longer live in England but near Paris. There are a large number of travellers moving in and out of this area on a seasonal basis, probably about 20 thousand over the whole southern Paris area. There are different groups, some quite law abiding, others not. Some of them live modestly and are apparently hardworking, others have big 4x4s, expensive caravans and backup vans, other are penniless Roms from Romania. There are French, there are Gitans, there are Manouche. It’s complicated.
The mayor of Massy didn’t mince his words when he said that each time they arrive en masse the crime rate shoots up. My local captain of the gendarmerie explained to me their various modus operandii, after the burglary. To speak of prejudice is absurd. An itinerant population which does not mix, makes little effort to school their children, does not pay taxes, steals water from fire hydrants, soils the local woods, and who ripped out all the plumbing on the dedicated travellers’ site our local taxes funded for them does nothing to make itself welcome. Oh yes, and their children have nice bicycles similar to the ones we can’t find any more.
Generally they stay for a month or two on an illegal site, and then move on before they are forced to do so. Such sites are rarer and rarer as each time they leave work is done to prevent reoccupation. When force is used it is usually massive; a company of CRS in attendance. There is a reason for this. The travellers are assumed to be armed (a not unreasonable assumption in France), and, in the presence of children, overwhelming visible force is seen as the surest way to avoid any conflict.
We have lots of settled ones who live in caravans on their own land and there does seem to be any local animosity towards them at all. The only time I felt any animosity was when they put up a bedsheet as a screen and used it to show pornographic movies, but that was a long time ago.
Its just that when you write about “the selfish and ignorant views of the majority” it may be that you haven’t really gone into the subject.
Maybe in Britain it’s all different?