Speaking-Up for the Sutton Travellers (3.8.2018)

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Fairfield Park – North Cheam

I have always been vaguely aware of Gypsies, Roma, Travellers and Didikais (people of Irish-Roma mixed ethnicity), as my family has been friends with members of the Didikai (often spelt ‘Didicoy’) community in Devon, and when driving through the British countryside, I have often seen various types of caravan-led travelling communities that are not part of the settled community. However, so excluded are these people from mainstream British society, that I have never personally met anyone who is ethnically ‘Roma’. This is extraordinary when it is considered that I have had a thoroughly multicultural upbringing. Due to the permanent state of exclusion that the Roma experience in the UK, I am more likely to meet someone from India or China, than my own indigenous Roma community. I find this observation shocking, particularly as the Roma were one of the first groups to be attacked and wiped-out by Adolf Hitler from 1933 onwards within Nazi Germany.  I remember being shocked when I heard that Switzerland carried-on sterilising Roma women well after WWII had finished, with virtually no protest from the Western democracies. This sadness continues as the Roma and the settled people currently exist in a state of permanent low-level conflict, with the settled community holding all the political power, and the Roma community holding none. Of course, I am not a Roma myself, and I have written how I was nearly attacked by a 12-year-old Traveller boy who only knew how to communicate through the threat of violence. However, as a Socialist (i.e. Marxist-Leninist), I understand that the conditions inherent within historical materialism have created the social roles we all inhabit, and that everything can be explained logically. If the settled community continuously treats a group of people as if they are not wanted (despite being born in this country, as most Irish-accented Travellers are), and withhold all State help and assistance as a consequence, then it is only reasonable to expect these disempowered people to fight back with the only power they possess – their wits. In the meantime, we all (Traveller and settled) as individuals, have to pay the price of less than congenial social interaction that often contains flare-up points of hostility and fear. When this happens, all the old (and unchallenged) prejudices against ‘Gypsies’ are given a fresh impetus in the local media, with stories of destruction, messiness and dog stealing being wheeled-out (usually without any supporting evidence), with no attempt to ‘heal’ any of the damage done over hundreds of years of historical abuse. Locally, even the rightwing Tory MP – Paul Scully – who is busy destroying local businesses and closing-down NHS hospitals, has publically called for the Travellers in Fairfield Park to be forcibly removed. I have written elsewhere about the local Sainsburys store shutting and pad-locking its gates to prevent the Travellers easily accessing food and water – particularly as temperatures reach 32 degrees Celsius! It seems that under our noses, the settled community is trying to ‘starve’ the travellers out, and are committing a new crime against the Roma.

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