By Grattan Puxon
Dale Farm, once a parochial planning dispute, has grown into something of an international issue. This week more than ever the ten-year community struggle takes on a global hue as parliamentarians intervene and Roma celebrate an epic mile-stone.
Following upon a UK all-party parliamentary appeal to Basildon Council to respect residents’ rights to alternate accommodation, Europe’s first Rom MEP Juan de Dios Ramirez Heredia will be at Dale Farm on Saturday carrying a similar message. Coming with him is Gjuner Abdula, current president of the Romani National Parliament, a trouble-shooter for the civil rights movement.
That movement holds its forty-year jubilee on 8 April, marking the lst World Romani Congress, hosted by the Gypsy Council in l971. A service at St John’s Church, Waterloo, will commemorate the half-million Roma murdered by the Nazis, as well as victims of present anti-Gypsy racism. Neo-fascist murders in Hungary, mob attacks on camps in Italy and mass expulsions from France, are heightening tensions
among Europe’s 10m Roma.
In response to the Dale Farm crisis, two UN bodies have appealed to the British Government and a Council of Europe approach is pending. From sources in Brussels, it is known responsible circles within the EU do not want to see Dale Farm fall. They fear if the UK – once viewed as an oasis of racial tolerance – permits such a blatant act of ethnic-cleansing it will give the green-light to another wave of officially-sanctioned anti-Gypsy pogroms across Europe.
On the ground the siege of Dale Farm has become a tug-of war between the darker forces of localism and those, mostly outsiders, with cooler heads and commonsense. As MP Andrew George, chair of the all-party parliamentary Group, points out the cost of providing other land for those facing the destruction of their homes would be far less than the financial outlay on the eviction.
Meanwhile, completion of such an operation by the notorious Constant & Co. Gypsy removal specialists is looking increasingly problematic. Residents and supporters say they intend to stop the bulldozers by non-violent means and a multi-national corps of legal observers is being trained to oversee the inevitable confrontation.
Media attention is at its height and global coverage is expected by CNN, Al Jazeera, France 24, as well as domestic television stations and journalist keen to be embedded behind the barricades before Essex police impose the inevitable road blockades.
Already Dale Farm bristles with defences, including scaffolding towers, bar bed-wire and chicane-barriers. On Saturday, to mark international Zero Eviction Day and in honour of their Barcelona guest, residents will raise another banner: NO PASARAN!
ROMANI CONGRESS JUBILEE
8 April Roma Nation Day Commemoration at St John’s Church, Waterloo, 11.30 am
9 April Zero Eviction Day
Dale Farm meeting 11 am