FIGHT FOR SITES CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED

The Department for Communities and Local Government were yesterday given 28 days notice to vacate their central London premises amid mounting criticism of their recent behaviour. Travellers, Gypsies, Roma and supporters behind the move cited “persistent racially aggravated persecution… harassment, alarm, and distress amounting to anti-social behaviour and gross misconduct”.

The government department, led by Conservative Eric Pickles, and responsible for much-criticised changes to Traveller site provision in the recent Localism Act, refused to comment last night. Those serving the notice insisted they had completed a full ‘Equalities Impact Assessment’ that had “balanced the needs of Eric Pickles’ political career against the rights of travelling communities to a home”.

Pickles’ department have been given 28 days to vacate the premises, with those behind the notice insisting that if this is not observed, “direct action will commence no later than 1pm on the 19th October”. Speculation over the significance of the date has filled the department, with many pointing to the first anniversary of the Dale Farm eviction as a primary reason. A video was leaked last night of the notice being served and can be viewed below.

For comment or media enquiries contact: tsn-media@noflag.org.uk
or call 07729762059

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We’re launching the ‘Fight for Sites’ campaign this autumn: a confrontational and much-needed challenge to local and national Government, bailiff companies and the Media, who together construct a cycle of homelessness, evictions and racism. On September 20th we’ll be having a public meeting, on October 19th a Mass Action to coincide with the first anniversary of the Dale Farm eviction. Click on the links below to find out more.

We also have an ‘Action Pack’ for all those interested in the issues and those who want to know more about the campaign.


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Blog: TSN outreach in Basildon

After a slow and grumpy Monday morning start, with one man berating us even before the
stall was up and running, the sun came out and we swung into action. Three security
people contracted by Basildon Council hung around for a while but happily went on their
way after we explained what we were doing and showed them the information on display.
This time we were publicising the threatened second eviction from Dale Farm, as well as
the testing by the Environment Agency.

The “before and after” photographs again proved good evidence for visitors to the stall. All
were dismayed and upset when they saw the state of Dale Farm after its destruction by
Basildon Council.

Lots of people stopped to talk with us, take leaflets and sign the petition, including at least
two groups of Travellers who were not from Dale Farm. Some passers-by were not
supporters but genuinely wanted to find out more, while some others just didnʼt want to
know anything.

Leaflets were given only to people who wanted them, and about 25-50% of passers-by
took one. 30 more people signed the petition to Basildon Council supporting the Travellersʼ
right to stop on land in Basildon; some people were so indignant about the Councilʼs
treatment of the Traveller families that they marched over to sign it without the need for an invitation.

By lunch-time the office workers were out on the streets so we had a different type of
audience. In all we handed out hundreds of leaflets and it was an interesting experience,
as well as useful for informing and gauging public opinion; which is important at local
council level.

Several times we were all busy engaged in talking to passers-by so even more people on
the stall would be appreciated, and would be well-employed. It could be tied into a visit or
meeting on Dale Farm.

The next stall will be in Basildon on Thursday 6th September 11:30-14:00. From the
outside of Basildon Council Offices look across to the far left corner between Wilkinsonʼs
and M&S – you’ll see our flags!
Do try to join us – and bring some music if you can!

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Environment Agency called in to Dale Farm as campaigners blame Basildon Council for ‘massive pollution’

The Environment Agency is expected shortly to take soil samples at Dale Farm, where last October 80 families were evicted under planning regulations by hundreds of police and bailiffs. If, as residents and campaigners expect, hydrocarbon and asbestos contamination is found, the £8 million already spent on the eviction is likely to rise [1]. The news comes as Basildon Council last week began further legal proceedings against the evicted families who claim they have ‘nowhere else to go’. Those living on the private road leading up to their former homes in Crays Hill, Essex were served enforcement notices giving them until the end of August to leave [2].

The Council had previously committed to the removal of all polluted material from the site in the High Court and received funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government for the task  as part of their multimillion pound clearance last October. Since then council contactors have bunded* the land, exposing thousands of tons of subsoil – a temporary measure, the council claims, to prevent families from returning to their properties.

Inspectors from the Environment Agency will now determine whether in doing so the council has created a serious health hazard in digging up the land, not only for families on the road but for adjacent homes, including over fifty authorized Dale Farm properties.

Parts of the Dale Farm estate have in the past been used by Basildon council for the storage of abandoned vehicles, as well as landfill. Over 6,000 cars were scrapped at the site before it was sold over a decade ago to families [3].

Local campaigners have made complaints to the Environment Agency that by breaking up extensive hard-standing, the council have themselves caused massive pollution. Grattan Puxon, longtime Dale Farm supporter and friend of the evicted families said “the council have no leg to stand on. They’ve evicted families from their homes on the principle that the land was greenbelt, and yet they’ve now spent millions polluting the land after the eviction. Meanwhile the families that used to live here are still homeless and have nowhere else to go and yet the council seem intent of driving them out of Basildon”.

——

* Bunding is the process by which flat land is turned into embankments and trenches. Developers regularly do this to make land uninhabitable.

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dale-farm-clearance-cost-7m-6348872.html
[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jul/25/former-dale-farm-travellers-new-eviction-attempt
[3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8768242/Dale-Farm-was-always-a-scrap-yard-says-former-site-owner.html

For Comment: Grattan Puxon 07757533380

Posted in Press releases and media advisories

Council threatens second Dale Farm eviction for families with ‘nowhere to go’

Basildon Council today began legal proceedings to evict families at Dale Farm made homeless by last October’s eviction. The dozens of families, who had moved on to a private road leading up to their former homes, have been given until August 29th to appeal.

Since October’s forced eviction families have been unable to move from Dale Farm due to a lack of plots in the area — they have lived in cramped conditions without running water, regular electricity as well as sewage problems [1]. In recent months council contractors have dug up asbestos.

Mary Sheridan, a mother living on Oak Lane, said “The council and thegovernment still will not listen, we have nowhere else to go. Why would we beliving with asbestos, no running water and sewage if we had somewhereelse to go. We want a safe place to live where our kids can go to school, is that toomuch ask?”

Last month, the Traveller Solidarity Network [2], who have supported familiesover recent years, announced plans for a demonstration on the anniversary of lastyear’s eviction [3]. The anniversary action on the 19th October isset to target the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Jo McGuire, Dale Farm supporter and member of the Traveller SolidarityNetwork, claims “The message this time last year is still the same today, thesefamilies have nowhere else to go because the council have failed to authoriseany pitches in the area. The council is choosing to evict before new planningapplications have been considered. These families are trying to do everything they can to keep their kids in the local school, but it seems the council just wants to clear them from the area.”

 

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2012/apr/20/dale-farm-eviction-video

[2] www.travellersolidarity.org

[3] http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/local_news/basildon/9767356.Eric_Pickles_faces_demo_outside_offices_on_anniversary_of_Dale_Farm_eviction/

 

Media enquiries: 07531330353

Twitter: @travellersol

Visit http://travellersolidarity.org/

Please email tsn-media@noflag.org.uk to be added to our press list

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PCC condone undercover Sun journalists at Dale Farm

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) have today ruled against the complaint of Dale Farm Solidarity against the News Corp newspaper ‘the Sun’. For two months in September and October 2011, journalists from the Sun went undercover at Dale Farm, posing as legal observers.

In response to today’s ruling, Jessica Hughes of Dale Farm Solidarity said:

“Legal observing is vital in protecting the right to protest and holding the police to account for their actions. It also provides valuable and reliable information in the event of criminal charges and lawsuits. By posing undercover as legal observers for two months, the Sun effectively sabotaged the work of legal monitors at Dale Farm, and put into jeopardy future legal monitoring programmes throughout the UK.

Remarkably, in today’s ruling, the Press Complaints Commission has condoned such destructive acts. It will be now be impossible for organisations that use legal observers to know whether their observers are actually doing their job, or are instead undercover reporters.   This was the core of our complaint, and yet amazingly, in their ruling, the Press Complaints Commission did not even question whether it was necessary for Sun reporters to pose as legal observers.

One would have thought that after their mishandling of the phone-hacking scandal, the PCC would be more diligent in protecting the public from such acts of subterfuge. This ruling makes it abundantly clear that the PCC are incapable of reigning in the more extreme tendencies of the British media.  We have forwarded information concerning our complaint to the Leverson Inquiry, which is currently drafting criteria for the body that will replace the discredited PCC.  The effectiveness of self-regulating bodies such as the PCC needs to be thoroughly questioned.”

For further comment, call 07729762059.  Documents available upon request.

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Basildon Council defies EU plea with new Dale Farm eviction plans

For further comment, call: 07729 762059

Displaced Dale Farm Travellers face a new round of evictions by Basildon Council. Following forcible eviction from their own land in October 2011, the 83 homeless families – including 100 children – have moved onto the private road leading to their former home and onto the adjoining Crays Hill site. Basildon Council issued new enforcement notices to the families last month, which have now expired, opening the way for a further eviction in the near future. [1]

This directly contravenes the public letter from Thomas Hammarberg, EU Commissioner for Human Rights, in February this year, in which he urged Eric Pickles, Minister for Communities and Local Government, “to ensure that an end be put to violations of the right to adequate housing of Travellers in Basildon”. He called the eviction in October “highly regrettable”. [2]

International concern has been widespread, with the UN and Amnesty International both condemning the original eviction.[3] Last week, as part of ‘Roma Nation Day’, a global day of protest against discrimination towards Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities, Roma activists in Romania held up flags declaring ‘We Support Dale Farm’ [see photo].[4]

Roma Activists in Romania hold a banner saying 'We Support Dale Farm' as part of Roma Nation Day.

Dale Farm resident and mother of three, Mary O’Brien, said today, “Tony Ball knows that we have nowhere else to go. He says he’s offered us council housing, but what kind of option is that? It would be the death of our Travelling culture, the death of our community. The last eviction was terrible, I never want me or my kids to go through anything like it again – but we don’t have any other options but to stay now. I’m absolutely terrified by the idea of another eviction.”

This Saturday, Dale Farm Travellers, local residents and supporters from the Traveller Solidarity Network are planning a ‘day of action’ in Basildon town centre to build local support against the eviction, with leafleting, a petition and street theatre. [5]

Annie Murray, a Wickford resident, said, “Basildon Council have acted disgracefully, spending millions of pounds making all these families homeless. That’s not what I paid my council tax for and I think a lot of people are angry about the senseless waste of money in these tight times. There’s an election coming up and it is absolutely essential now that settled people support the Dale Farm community and stand up against the prejudice and ignorance of Tony Ball’s Tory Council. This whole community deserves better, settled and travelling.”

[3] http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=19665.

[4] For more information on Roma Nation Day, see:

http://travellersolidarity.org/2012/04/09/london-roma-nation-day/

[5] For more information on Saturday’s day of action, see:

http://travellersolidarity.org/2012/04/04/day-of-action-in-basildon-saturday-14th-april/

Posted in Press releases and media advisories

Dale Farm Travellers and supporters ‘dismayed’ at High Court defeat

Dale Farm residents and supporters at High Court last September

The High Court ruled today that Basildon Council does not have a duty to provide ‘culturally appropriate accommodation’ for three evicted Dale Farm residents. Travellers and their supporters condemned the ruling as a blow to Traveller and Gypsy rights in the UK [1].

The ruling follows recent criticism of the UK authorities by the EU commissioner for Human Rights for the ‘deeply regrettable’ eviction at Dale Farm. Thomas Hammarberg called for an ‘end [to] be put to violations of the right to adequate housing of Travellers in Basildon’[2]. These criticisms were echoed earlier this month in an Equalities and Human Rights Commission report on Human Rights in the UK, which found that the ‘lack of sufficient sites means it is difficult for Gypsies and Travellers to practice their traditional way of life’ [3].

Lawyers for the Travellers argued that forcing them into bricks-and-mortar accommodation constitutes an attempt to destroy their distinctive culture. Almost all of the 83 Dale Farm families displaced by the eviction have registered as homeless and they have stated that they want a pitch for their mobile homes and not a council house or flat. However, Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Pitchford rejected this argument.

Mary Sheridan, a homeless Dale Farm resident, said “This is terrible news – not just for us, but for Travellers everywhere. The law in the UK wants to destroy the Traveller way of life. We’re already living in desperate conditions at Dale Farm – it’s like a refugee camp. We don’t know where we will go – we just want to live a normal life with our community, so that we can care for our elderly and get our kids an education.”

Lily Hayes, a member of the Traveller Solidarity Network, added, “The UK is already failing its human rights obligations to Travellers and Gypsies. Pickle’s localism has abolished any national strategy for providing sites, and this disgraceful ruling opens the door to the complete destruction of the Travelling way of life. We need to stand side by side with Travellers and Gypsies to resist these unjust and racist laws.”

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For additional comment: 07729762059
@travellersol
travellersolidarity.org

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[1] MARY FLYNN, JOHN SHERIDAN & BARBARA O’BRIEN v BASILDON in HIGH COURT. Wednesday February 29/ Thursday March 1. The Rolls Building, 100 Fetter Lane, London EC4
http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/9603797.Dale_Farm_families_lose_appeal_over_housing/

[2] https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?Ref=CommDH%282012%2914&Language=lanEnglish&Ver=original&BackColorInternet=FEC65B&BackColorIntranet=FEC65B&BackColorLogged=FFC679

[3] http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/news/2012/march/commission-publishes-human-rights-review/

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Key Court Case Coming Up for Dale Farm families- come along!

MARY FLYNN, JOHN SHERIDAN & BARBARA O’BRIEN v BASILDON in HIGH COURT Tomorrow and Thursday – Feb 29/March 1, The Rolls Building, 100 Fetter Lane, London EC4

This hugely significant appeal regarding the issue as to whether Basildon
must provide plots to those initially offered, but refusing, bricks and
mortar is now to be heard tomorrow. What is at stake is whether local council’s have a duty to provide culturally suitable accommodation for their population.
The hearing will take place on Wednesday, 29
February and Thursday, 1 March before the Chancellor of the High Court,
Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Pitchford in Court 23 of the Rolls
Building. The expected start time is 10.30 am although times are regularly pushed back.

The Rolls Building is located in Holborn [a few blocks away from the main High Court Building] at 100 Fetter Lane, London EC4. The Map is here

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‘Shame-Faced’ Tony Ball forced to Flee Council Awards by angry protesters.

Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council and architect of the Dale Farm eviction, was forced to flee an awards ceremony by angry protesters in central London last night.

Nominated for the award of ‘Council Leader of the Year’ by the Local Government Information Unit [1], Tony Ball was confronted by 50 vocal Dale Farm supporters when he attempted to leave the Westminster City Hall. He was hounded back into the building by the protesters, who invaded the lobby shouting ‘scum’ and ’83 families homeless’, and was ultimately forced to leave under police guard via a back exit.

Although Tony Ball did not win the ‘Council Leader of the Year’ award, the protesters were determined to present the Basildon Council Leader with an alternative award for ‘Community Wrecker of the Year’.

Robert McCready, a supporter of the Dale Farm community, said, “It is genuinely shocking that any self-respecting body could choose to nominate a man who spent £7 million of public money on making 83 Dale Farm families homeless in a brutal manner. The LGIU tonight attempted the whitewash the horrors of the Dale Farm eviction and we didn’t let them. Tony Ball was shame-faced as he fled.”

Dale Farm resident Kathleen McCarthy added, “How anyone can think a man like that deserves to be rewarded, I just don’t know. He wrecked our community and our lives and thinks he can get away with it. He is a disgrace and what he, his council and the Government did will never be forgotten. ”

[1] The Local Government Information Unit [LGIU] are a London based think-tank. http://blog.lgiu.org.uk/2012/02/cllr-achievement-awards-2012-all-winners/

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Press Release
Traveller Solidarity Network
28/02/2012: For immediate release
For further comment, contact 07729762059 or tsn-media@noflag.org.uk

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Tony Ball Acceptance Speech Video

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