‘The law needs to recognise the rights of Travellers. Everyone is pushing you aside, pushing you onto the next place. There’s no solution. Basildon want to push us to Chelmsford, Chelmsford want to push you to Manchester, and Manchester want to push you to the moon. They want to kick you out: once you’re not stopping on their doorstep it’s alright. And that’s not really a way to live. It’s not a way for government people or council’s to be carrying on. It’s not’s a human way to be living or to treat people.’ – Mary Flynn, Dale Farm resident and mother of four.
Hostility towards Travellers and Roma is endemic across the UK today. Local newspapers play on the prejudices of NIMBY local residents, reporting on the fear and anger that Travellers and Roma provoke in settled residents. Programmes like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding have fuelled the fires of discrimination by purposefully manipulating and cashing in on racist perceptions of travelling communities. However, these attitudes also underpin central government policy: earlier this year Eric Pickles’ Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) warned that Traveller sites should ‘not dominate the nearest settled community, and avoid placing an undue pressure on the local infrastructure.’ In doing so, the DCLG present a conflict of interests between settled and travelling communities, implying that there is such a thing as ‘too many’ Travellers and Roma families living in a given area. In effect, they promote racism: the direct link can be seen in this weeks’ Express, which welcomed Pickles’ announcement of unlimited fines on caravans stopping on land without permission with the headline ‘New laws will stop Travellers from invading’.
Negative representations in the Media, racist attitudes and attacks, and discriminatory government directives all contribute to the presentation of Travellers and Roma as outsiders who intrude upon the settled community and can be legally denied the right to a home.
Current government policy amounts to a deliberate attempt to eradicate the travelling way of life. At the heart of the most recent attack on Roma and Traveller rights is Pickles’ DCLG. Evictions aren’t simply local disputes between settled residents and ‘intruding’ Travellers. Despite the guise of ‘localism’ adopted by the DCLG, central government policy is backing a wave of evictions, politically, legislatively and financially.
Twenty per cent of Travellers and Roma live under the threat of eviction, either on land that they own without planning permission or squatting on land. This is not by choice: there is a shortfall of almost 6,000 pitches in the UK, whilst half of all Traveller applications for planning permission are turned down [EHRC, 2012]. The government’s flagship announcement of £60 million for new and improved sites over the next 15 years will only translate into 510 additional pitches, providing just 1/12th of the amount needed. Pickles has used this as a fig leaf of ‘fairness’ to mask the institutional racism that Travellers and Roma face in the planning system. Last years’ Localism Act reinforced legislation criminalising Traveller and Roma communities, abolishing regional targets for councils to provide sites at the same time as allowing councils to evict Traveller and Roma communities even while they are applying for planning permission.
The local impact of the DCLG’s destructive policy agenda is already evident. South Cambridgeshire Council recently reduced its assessment of Traveller and Roma housing needs to zero without even a hint of consultation with the communities concerned. At the same time the council is threatening six Traveller families from Smithy Fen with homelessness. As funding is cut nationally for vital services helping Travellers and Roma engage in consultations and apply for planning permission, these communities become ever more excluded from the processes that determine their right to a home.
The end-game of the DCLG campaign of increased evictions and reduced site provision is the criminalisation and eventual eradication of the travelling way of life. Traveller and Roma communities with nowhere to live are being forced into a cycle of evictions, and ultimately into bricks and mortar accommodation. At Dale Farm, Basildon Council have refuse to accept a duty to provide alternative sites for the community it made homeless, offering bricks and mortar housing to a minority of families. This year has tested the endurance of the Dale Farm community, who have struggled to survive without electricity, water or sanitation on the road leading to their former home. This struggle for survival is a form of resistance; the families refuse to be forced into bricks and mortar accommodation and allow the travelling way of life to be eradicated. As a result, they face a second eviction this winter that may well force them away from the land where their children were born, and onto the side of roads and car parks.
As the anniversary of the last year’s eviction approaches on 19 October, the Traveller Solidarity Network is taking the fight for sites to the doorstep of Pickles’ Department for Communities and Local Government, in solidarity with the families at Dale Farm and Traveller and Roma families facing uncertainty and eviction across the UK. We are fighting for the right to a home and an end to evictions.
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue