The policing bill’s attack on Gypsies, Roma and Travellers

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The policing bill is the biggest threat to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in our lifetime. Jake Bowers speaks with Pablo Navarrete to explain why.


The police bill is the biggest threat to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in my lifetime.

It has direct parallels in history. In 1936, the Nazis passed a similar decree, which said that all Romany should stop traveling so that they can be kept an eye on by the police. This is the beginning of that thin end of the wedge of persecution. And we’re resisting it with everything we’ve got. 

Part four of the bill created by Priti Patel will do three things. It will bring in a £2,500 fine for gypsies and travelers that are nomadic. It will imprison people that follow that way of life. And it will essentially get rid of our community from the British landscape. 

I’ve been starting a campaign called the ‘Drive to Survive’ campaign where we’re getting as many people as possible to come together at key events, outside parliament, Appleby Fair (the world’s biggest horse fair), to show that gypsy, Roma, and traveller people, that we have a voice, that we are powerful, that we’re not the criminals, rogues, and vagabonds that we’re painted to be and assumed to be, and that we’re not going anywhere. 

The Conservative Party is using this bill, the police bill, to not just clamp down on legitimate protest, which is an important part of any democracy, but to culturally cleanse the British landscape of our community. We’ve been here for 500 years, and in that time, we’ve been hanged for who we are, we’ve been sent to prison and deported for who we are. Things got better, but with the arrival of this bill, we will see our culture being effectively outlawed. 

So we need to come together as a community with other communities, other ethnic communities, to say that this isn’t good enough. 

Read on...

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It has direct parallels in history. In 1936, the Nazis passed a similar decree, which said that all Romany should stop traveling so that they can be kept an eye on by the police. This is the beginning of that thin end of the wedge of persecution. And we’re resisting it with everything we’ve got.

The mainstream media makes the demonisation of our community possible.

Whether it’s the Daily Mail, or the Sun, or lurid, horrible television programmes on Channel Four. It is the one thing that drives hatred of the Gypsy and traveller community. There are issues over where people put their caravans. There is an undeniable conflict. But what makes it worse is when people are whipped up into a frenzy of racial hatred.

So I became a journalist about 30 years ago now to try and unpick that. And I’ve earned a living at it. But it’s still as strong now as it was when I started. So the media has a lot to answer for. The media can be part of the solution. But at the moment, it’s largely part of the problem. 

I think one thing that you see with the police bill is it’s undeniably a form of legal persecution. But the good thing that’s come out of it is like never before gypsy communities, the Irish traveller community, new travelers are working together and making links like never before to defend their cultures. 

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And I’ve never known a year like it, where people, particularly within left-wing politics, began to embrace the issues that affect our communities. And see this not as some kind of weird lifestyle issue, or some kind of weird social issue, but as a genuine issue of racial equality. It is an issue that should be at the heart of anybody that cares to try and fight racism. And we embrace and we need all the allies that we can get in this struggle. 

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