Dale Farm Travellers Face Racism and Prejudice as Court Mulls Appeal,

Massimo suburbanstudio at runbox.com
Sat Dec 20 03:30:42 GMT 2008

Dale Farm Travellers Face Racism and Prejudice as Court Mulls Appeal
December 19, 2008, Basildon, UK: Traveller families at the Dale Farm 
site in southeast England have faced an outpouring of racism and 
prejudice as they await a decision from Britain's Court of Appeals on 
whether local authorities can evict them from their homes.
Earlier this month, the Travellers were rebuffed by a local community 
association after they applied to join in an effort to build closer ties 
with other area residents. A letter from the association's chairperson, 
Tina Borer, said that their membership would not lead to greater 
community cohesion.
After the story 
appeared in the local newspaper, the Echo, the paper's website received 
a torrent of hateful comments 
referring to the Travellers as "dirty thieving law breaking scumbags," 
"outlaws," and "tax dodgers."
The Travellers have sent a complaint to the British Press Complaints 
Commission about the Echo comments, according to Grattan Puxon, 
Secretary of the Dale Farm Housing Association. The Advocacy Project 
(AP) also contacted the Echo, and some of the most offensive comments 
were removed. But many still remain, and their message is unmistakably 
"This story and the racist comments which followed require some action 
to uphold Travellers' rights," Mr Puxon said. "There is a lot more 
racism, as ever, in these comments and the Echo newspapers need to be 
held responsible."
The Travellers are defined as a distinct ethnic group by British law and 
have long been targets of discrimination in the UK. The controversy 
marks the latest twist in a long-running attempt 
<http://advocacynet.org/page/dalefarmtimeline> by the Basildon District 
Council to expel around 90 families from the Dale Farm site. Although 
the Travellers own the land, the Council has denied them permission to 
build, on the grounds that the site is within the Green Belt and 
protected by environmental regulations.
The Council has also refused to make other land available to Travellers, 
as it is required to do. Councillors from the opposition Labour Party 
vigorously oppose the eviction plan, as it would produce extraordinary 
suffering, shift the burden to other local councils, and pull Traveller 
children out of school.
The eviction orders were halted in May 
<http://advocacynet.org/resource/1157> by Judge Andrew Collins of the 
British High Court, but the Council appealed the ruling. Another hearing 
was held December 4, and Traveller families expect a decision from the 
Court of Appeals early next year.
AP has supported the Travellers since June 2005, when they were first 
ordered out. AP sent two Peace Fellows to work at Dale Farm, and this 
week pledged $500 to help support internet connections and heating at 
Dale Farm's community center.
The recent rejection by the Residents' Association, and the exchange 
with the Echo newspaper, has deepened the sense of isolation at Dale 
Farm. The Echo has a large audience in the Basildon area, and Dale Farm 
residents feel it often portrays Travellers in a negative light. The 
paper ran several articles on AP's 2007 Peace Fellow, Zachary Scott 
<http://advocacynet.org/blogs/index.php?blog=82>, which provoked scores 
of critical comments.
The latest comments follow a series of inflammatory articles in British 
national media, including a front page headline in the Daily Express 
reading "Families must sell land for Gypsy campsites," and the launch of 
an anti-Traveller "Stamp on the Camps" campaign in the Sun newspaper. 
Similar articles have also appeared in the Daily Mail and the Evening 
Standard, according to Richard Sheridan, President of the Dale Farm 
Housing Association.
The Dale Farm Travellers protested outside the London offices of the 
Press Complaints Commission on December 5, and the Commission has now 
agreed to meet with a delegation. In preparation, the Travellers are 
asking supporters to e-mail <mailto:dale.farm at btinternet.com> them 
letters of complaint about discriminatory articles, which will then be 
presented to the Commission.
Alerted by AP, the Global Affairs Club at Cornell University's School of 
Industrial and Labor Relations has taken up the issue of Dale Farm, and 
will be sending letters. Others interested are encouraged to contact 
Dale Farm directly, or through AP.

    * Read the Echo article and comments

    * Send a letter <http://citizenspeak.org/node/1397> to the Press
      Complaints Commission

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