Concerns over private Gypsy site

A special planning meeting is to be held in Carleton Rode to determine a controversial application for a private Gypsy and Traveller site, so reported the Wymondham & Attleborough Mercury on Wednesday, February 25, 2009.

The district council has received more than 120 letters from residents giving their views on Romany John Leveridge's proposal to create a permanent home for his extended family on farmland at The Turnpike.

Many have voiced concerns about highways dangers as the site is beside a busy stretch of road, regarded locally as an accident black spot where speeding is a problem. Objectors also claim the land was sold for agricultural use and is unsuitable for residential development.

Cllr Beverley Spratt, who represents Carleton Rode, said: “Many local residents have called me expressing their opposition to these plans and they were geared-up for the full planning committee meeting on March 4.

“Now that the county highways information is taking longer than expected to arrive, I have arranged for a special planning committee to be held in Carleton Rode village hall when the data is available.”

Mr Spratt said it is hoped to hold the meeting in mid-April. He added: “Local people can be reassured that not only are their concerns being listened to but I have made sure that the planning committee will be coming into Carleton Rode to see for themselves the strength of local opinion.”

A Romany gipsy, currently living in a bungalow at Great Melton, Mr Leveridge restores traditional horse-drawn gipsy wagons and plans to repair existing buildings on his land at The Turnpike.

But, it is really amazing, in my view, that every time that a Romany (Romani or Rom to be correct) wishes to set up his own site concerns from the public over closeness to a main road, or, on other occasions the fact that it is away from shops and schools, are raised.

No one seems to have a problem, however, when a government sites puts Romany Gypsies and/or Travellers slap bang next to a sewage works, a municipal rubbish tip, or even on top of an old, disused tip and often those places are also far away from shops and schools. No one seems to then have those concerns then.

But when it is a Romany (or Travellers) wishing to make their own provisions such "concerns" are raised by the public.

Let's face it. Those residents know full well that such "concerns" may stop the development and that is all. Not in our backyard, is the message, loud and clear, as ever, in those cases. It has nothing whatsoever to do with concern for the people and the children, for instance, but everything with anti-Gypsyism.

The fact is that this is not a Gypsy and Traveller site but a private site for a Romany's extended family, so people really have no need to worry about an influx of “pikies” into the area.

Nevertheless, they still have those fears. Mr. Leveridge has been living, as it has been said, in a bungalow at Great Melton and I wonder as to whether anyone has asked the locals there with regards to his standing and that of his family.

Each and every time, as I have indicated already, when a Rom wishes to make private provisions for himself and his extended family, for this is how we Roms live, in extended families and we love to have all generations near us, preferably on the same piece of land, then people make noises against it and often aided and abetted, if not even riled, by local Councillors who should be representing all people.

It would appear, however, that, as far as they be concerned, Gypsies do not fall under “people”.

I rest my case...

M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009

Lords issue warning regarding the 'surveillance state'

by Michael Smith

Electronic surveillance and collection of personal data are "pervasive" in British society and threaten to undermine democracy, Members of the House of Lords have warned. And rightly so, one can but hasten to add.

The proliferation of CCTV cameras and the growth of the DNA database were two examples of threats to privacy, so the Lords constitution committee said.

Those subject to unlawful surveillance should be compensated while the policy of DNA retention should be rethought.

Too many times local authorities also have been making use of RIPA, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which was never intended to be used in the way that so many councils are employing it, such as spying on people as to what rubbish is put out when incorrectly and by who, and such like.

The government said CCTV and DNA were "essential crime fighting tools", but this has, in fact, been disproved by senior police officers who have stated not so long ago that CCTV is useless in most cases. So why the continuation of the lie to the people.

The only answer here can and must be that the government of the UK is hellbent on “people control” and nothing else.


Surveillance and data collection, so the Lords' committee says, must be proportionate.
What, however, is proportionate in this instance and who decides this and who monitors this on behalf of the people?

Civil liberties campaigners have warned about the risks of a "surveillance society" in which the state acquires ever-greater powers to track people's movements and retain personal data.

Controversial government plans for a database to store details of people's phone calls and e-mails were put on hold late last year after they were branded "Orwellian".

Ministers are currently consulting on the plan, which would involve the details but not the content of calls and internet traffic being logged, saying it is essential to fighting terrorism.

While we are being told that this database will not contain the details of phone calls and emails who is to say that this is going to be thus and, yet again, who, on behalf of the people is going to monitor this.

None of these methods will aid in the fight against crime nor in the fight against terrorism. Only one things will: proper policing; one that is NOT target driven but one that uses the old-fashioned ways of investigations of officers with common sense and a nose for spotting things that are wrong.

In its report, the Lords constitution committee said growth in surveillance by both the state and the private sector risked threatening people's right to privacy, which it said was "an essential pre-requisite to the exercise of individual freedom".

The public were often unaware of the scale of personal information held and exchanged by public bodies, it said.

He only reason I can see for all those intrusive measures is that the governments are, in fact, frightened of the people and of the power the people have nowadays with the Internet. For the very same reason that they, in Italy, are trying to outlaw the citizen journalist, the Blogger and Blogs.

Instead of alienating the people by such measures the governments should empower the people to take part in the enforcement of the laws that there are and to be the eyes and ears as far as crime and terrorism is concerned and empower the people also the properly, as individuals, to hold the police to account when they do not deal with crime in the proper way.

Target-driven policing is leaving people frustrated and worse. You cannot tell a crime victim that they must book an appointment with an officer to take a statement or too tell Park Rangers when there are hoodlums rampaging through a park, threatening people, that local officers will be made aware and will attend to take a statement in a couple of days.

The reason for such replies is the target culture and the wish to appear to solve everything to which officers are being dispatched. So, if you don't send a response vehicle then that is not logged as such an incident and hence the possible lack of a result in an investigation does not reflect (badly) in the league tables. This is what it is all about and, as far as the government is concerned, “people control”

here is so much misuse of the powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, for instance, that it is hardly surprising that people, and especially organizations that try to protect the civil liberties in the UK, are getting concerned.

Orwell was right only a little too early in the date.

There are and estimated 4,000,000 (in words: four million) CCTV cameras in the UK and often they are used by local councils to simply spy on people over issues such as littering and such like.

The Conservatives said the government's approach to personal privacy was "reckless".

"Ministers have sanctioned a massive increase in surveillance over the last decade, at great cost to the taxpayer, without properly assessing either its effectiveness or taking adequate steps to protect the privacy of perfectly innocent people," said shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve.

The government and the police, as said previously, are alienating rather than making friends out of the public but then they do not seem to care. They rather see anyone and everyone as a criminal and terrorist until proven otherwise. It used to be “innocent until proven guilty” but that was a long time ago.

When the “Miranda” warning in the UK was changed from “you have the right to remain silent but anything you may say will be taken down and given in evidence” to “you have the right to remain silent but it may harm your defense if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court”, the goalpost was moved and it became a “guilty until proven innocent”. In the same way as anyone carrying a knife may be considered automatically to carry it will ill intentions, for instance. A knife is a tool and not a weapon, primarily, and while there are people who carry a knife as a weapon the emphasis should still be, also with children and young people in the possession of a knife, that there is another purpose there for that knife than as a weapon of offense or defense. Guilty until proven innocent, and in the knife instance often it simply is guilty, whether guilty or not. You do not solve crime that way.

I sincerely think our People, the Rom, were right never to trust the state.

© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009

Gypsy and Traveller sites set to double

by Michael Smith

North West England will have to more than double the number of sites it provides for Gypsies and Travellers under a new draft policy for the region.

The forum for local authority leaders from the region, 4NW, has begun consulting on the plan, which would compel north west councils to find another 1,250 permanent and 270 temporary pitches by 2016, on top of the 950 sites that existed in 2007.

The new draft policy, part of 4NW’s partial review of regional strategy the North West Plan, is open for wide consultation until 18 March and the final version will be submitted to central government in July.

Michael Gallagher, 4NW’s director of planning, transport and housing, said there was ‘widespread support’ for a more strategic distribution of sites – placing them according to need rather than a simple formula for each council.

He added there was an ‘urgent need’ for more suitable accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers to provide better quality of life and access to services from legal pitches.

He said: ‘It is very important to address the issue. It is part of the homelessness agenda, and why should one section of the community not have somewhere to live?’

The fact that the number of those sites or shall we better say pitches will have to more than double shows that the counties and boroughs in that region never complied with the original policies under the Caravans Sites Act prior to Thatcher abolishing it. Not that really any council ever did.

When Mr. Gallagher said “... why should one section of the community not have somewhere to live?” he should also consider as to why it is every time that when Gypsies and Travellers wish to make their own provisions for sites they get turned down. Often on silly issues such as that were they have chosen to live is too far away from schools and shops and such. Is that not irrelevant when the people want to live there?

The fact is that when Gypsies want to do their own thing that does not fit into the scheme; that is the truth. They cannot be controlled on their own sites now, could they.

No one could come up and suggest to put CCTV cameras on their sites, as is being suggested for the council run sites now, in a great number of places. Obviously there are terrorist activities being planned on those Gyppos on those sites.

© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009

Extremist group calls for expulsion of Gypsies from Italy

by Michael Smith

Rome, Italy, February 22, 2009: An extreme right-wing organisation has taken to the streets of Rome calling for the expulsion from Italy of the entire Romani or Gypsy population of the country.

While there seems to have been little little public support for the Forza Nuova group which is pressing for the end of the Schengen agreement which allows passport – free travel in much of the EU – the situation for the Gypsy population, indigenous and immigrant, in Italy is becoming more and more precarious.

Protest organizer Roberto Fiore said: “This is a situation that requires political will. We want to suspend the Schengen agreement, which is one of the main reasons for the disaster and we want to start all the expulsions of the gypsies and at the same time we think that all the people who have committed crimes in Italy. They should be sent back to their own countries.”

A series of sex attacks in Italy is being blamed on foreigners living in the country and three rapes last weekend triggered a media frenzy and a diplomatic row with Romania.

Italy’s conservative government rushed through a law toughening penalties for sex offenders and permitting neighborhood citizen patrols.

No doubt we can imagine against who those patrols will be used and, having seen the pictures of the camps into which many Gypsies have been moved by the authorities and the special police units guarding them, I do not think we have to ask.

In addition to this Hungary is ablaze with anti-Gypsyism right now with the right-wing also calling, basically, for the expulsion of all Gypsies from that country. And this all in countries that are members of the European Union.

I mean not that it surprises me in the least. I have seen this coming for years now, only no one wanted to believe it. I hate to be the one to say “I told you so”, but such it is. The writing was on the wall but everyone wanted to be blind to it.

As far as we, the Gypsy, are concerned nothing will ever change and all the EU does is talk nice words but that is about it. When it comes down to it the Gypsy will remain their whipping boy and be held responsible for all ills of their society.

© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009

Cost of Gypsy Sites revamp causes outrage

by Michael Smith

This kind of headline and even worse we are seeing on an almost weekly basis in Britain when local authorities mention that this or that Gypsy Site in their area is being refurbished or such.

The local residents end up in arms, often aided and abetted by one or the other local councilor or even Member of Parliament, as to the cost of the revamps of those sites.

It is strange though that when a “normal” housing estate gets a multi-million Pound Sterling revamp no one says a word against it and everyone, generally, says how necessary such a refurbishment was of this or that estate.

When it comes to the Gypsy (and the Travelers) then there is one law and rule for the Gadje, for the non-Gypsy population, and one for the Gypsy. This is not just so in the case of housing but housing appears to be one of those areas where it is very much pronounced.

No one wants to have a Gypsy Site anywhere in a locality and this regardless as to whether this is a government site or a private Gypsy development.

In the latter case the things look even worse. Very rare, if ever, will Gypsies get the permission to create their own sites or settlements – as they would like to have them – on their own land; on land that they have bought fairly and squarely.

More often than not the excuse for not granting planning rights given is “green belt land” and such.

However, often, as soon as the land is sold, say, by the Gypsy owners to someone else, planning permission is granted for the building of housing units for profit.

We have seen this more than just a few times by now.

In other cases the lands was taken off the Gypsy owners by the municipalities, were a little more revamped and then the original Gypsy owners of the land were told they could rent plots on this now official Gypsy Site.

While Gypsies owned the land it could not possibly become a Gypsy-owned and -run Caravan Site or Gypsy settlement but as soon as the councils took over such properties, with the hard-standings in place and all that, laid by the Gypsies, it could be turned into an official government Gypsy Caravan Site. Suddenly there was no longer a problem with “agricultural ties” or “green belt land”.

Similar things also happen when Gypsies try to move into houses even, especially when they try too live in extended family. They are being hounded by the locals who make all manner of claims, including the one that having Gypsies live nearby reduces the values of heir homes.

This is something that is found in many countries of Europe but Britain, I think, tops the list in this league. While one might have thought different as there does not appear to be so much anti-Gypsyism in Britain, being a country that appear to value the freedom of people, this same freedom does not, however, extend to the Gyppo, and never has.

While hate crimes and racial discrimination against any other group will immediately be dealt with the the authorities, when it comes to us, the Rom, the answer always is that nothing can be done for this or that clause and such. One law and rule everyone else and one discriminatory one for the Gyppo and always applied against him.

Time for a change!

© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009

With an emergency decree Italy authorizes racism, spying and ethnic persecution

With an emergency decree Italy authorizes racism, spying and ethnic persecution

by EveryOne Group

Rome, February 9th, 2009: The Italian institutions have approved with an emergency decree the presence of anti-Roma and anti-foreigner patrols, the filing of the homeless and ghetto-camps. The “security package” encourages doctors to report “illegal” immigrants. In the meantime ten Tunisian refugees awaiting deportation have attempted suicide on Lampedusa. EveryOne Group: “The “Padane” patrols are the equivalent of the Blackshirts whose aim is racial persecution. Extreme Right ideology prompted by racial hatred triumphs, while we are amazed at the insubstantiality of the protests coming from the democratic parties against such injustice. It is no longer a matter of politics, it is endless horror that mainly affects women, children and the most vulnerable. Urgent and determined intervention from the international institutions has now become necessary”.

Racist and xenophobic actions and policies have established themselves in Italy at all levels, and it is to be pointed out that the Italian institutions are now ignoring all the international laws against discrimination and in defence of human rights when issuing laws and decrees. On Friday 6th February, 2009 the Italian Senate approved the new emergency decree known as the “security package”. We are talking about a series of discriminatory and persecutory measures that will affect the Roma people, immigrants and the homeless. After the protests last year from all over the world against the ethnic filing of the Roma put forward by Minister Maroni, (a member of the anti-immigration Northern League Party) the same measure has returned again in a different form. The security package foresees, in fact, the filing of all citizens without a fixed address, with details of their ethnic group. The records of the homeless will be kept at the Interior Ministry and according to reliable sources it will also foresee the taking of fingerprints and maybe even the person’s DNA. We must remember that during the years of the racist laws, the Nazi party set up a register of “asocial” citizens, including the “gypsies” and the homeless.

What is more, the security package also authorizes the presence of “Padane” patrols. Like the Arrowed Cross in Hungary, the Brownshirts in Germany and the Blackshirts in Italy, we are talking about voluntary militia legally authorized to work alongside the police force in the operations of hunting out and reporting people who are considered a security problem. Even before they were authorized, the Padana patrols were the protagonists of violent actions against the Roma people and immigrants, including the arson attack on the Roma settlement in Opera (Milan) in2007. Between November 2005 and June 2007 the so-called “Black Panda Gang” made up of private citizens and members of the police force, were guilty of many cases of beatings, violence and kidnapping carried out against illegal immigrants. Many of those violent police officers are still on duty, others have been sentenced. Many cases of ill-treatment have been reported in Monza, Lecco, Varese and in other cities in northern Italy: cases of torture, rape and the stealing from young Roma of money obtained from begging. Two “patrols” who carry out these crimes are known as the “Company of Death” (who wear green shirts) and the “Barboso Gang” (who according to the victims wear police uniforms). Officially founded in 1990, the Padane patrols follow the philosophy contained in the slogan coined by the Leghista Mario Borghezio: “Sticks against immigration”. Three years later Gianfranco Miglio, the ideologist of the Northern League and supporter of the anti-immigrant patrols, stated that “Lynching is the highest form of justice”.The associations defending the rights of the Roma people and immigrants have received dozens of reports of abuse carried out by these patrols. Often these patrols are copied by groups of racists – such as GAPE in Tuscany – who have been the protagonists of attacks in which Roma citizens have died a terrible death: we remember the fire of Livorno in which four young children perished.Since the emergency decree was approved, parties and racist groups have started to recruit members. There is a real danger that the 176,000 Italian racists active with violent slogans and statements against the Roma people on Facebook – only a part of the Italian xenophobic and Neo-Nazi movement – will join the patrols in order to carry out these “authorized” ethnic purges.Before the accusations of the victims, the militia will be covered by the institutions, and their testimonies will be considered on the same level as those of “public officials”. The decree has also cancelled out the law that says doctors do not have to report the immigrants who turn to them for health treatment, and it asks hospitals and clinics to report “illegal” immigrants - in violation of the Hippocratic Oath. The renewal of the foreigners’ residence permit will now cost up to 200 euros: an exorbitant sum that will hit already discriminated against immigrants, people who are often already reduced to slavery by the power Italian law grants their employers. While the Senate was approving the racist package, in Lampedusa a group of Tunisian refugees faced with deportation attempted suicide by hanging themselves with their own clothes. As for the running of the Roma settlements, Milan has officialized the new “security package” which transforms every camp into an authentic “closed” ghetto with 24-hour police surveillance, and where Roma citizens are deprived of any rights. Deputy mayor, De Corato, after confirming with satisfaction the responsibility of the Milanese authorities in the humanitarian tragedy of the “clearance of over 100 camps, some of which of large dimensions” has announced for 2009 “the demolition of squatter buildings and settlements in private areas” and “more rigid regulations” against the Roma community. We must emphasise that in the city of Milan alone, there have been hundreds of episodes of violence against women from the Roma ethnic group. They have often been thrown out onto the street on their own (or with small children) following camp clearances while their men, who could have protected them, were taken off to police HQ to have their documents checked. “We are asking the EU and UN institutions, the democratic nations and the human rights organizations to join us in our campaign against the persecution of the Roma people and immigrants in Italy”, say the worried leaders of EveryOne Group, Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau. “After the ethnic purge that wiped out or forced the majority of Roma to flee Italy, after the countless violations of human rights and tragic violence, Italy is now taking the European Union back to the times of the Brownshirts, the ghettoes and collaborationism. It has become necessary to take up a position of responsibility and intervene with determination to prevent these intolerant and uncivil measures being spread in the form of ideologies and “infecting” other Members States. The recent past has taught us that resolutions and warnings have had no effect, while the directives have been constantly sidestepped or ignored, and gone unpunished. Inertia is dangerous, and the presence of racist and xenophobic leaders in the European Parliament itself (even on the Civil Liberties Committee), and the re-emergence of intolerant and anti-Semitic ideologies, is symptomatic of a phenomenon that causes anguish and offers, instead of a Europe of human rights, the most sinister of ghosts”.


Do we need a “Sinti Federation”?

By Michael Smith

Now that the International Romani Union has shown its true face and has become – officially and publicly – the International Roma Union, it is, I believe, time for the non-Roma amongst the Romani People, such as Sinti, Romanichals, Rom Polska, Russka Rom, Cale, Romane Chave, and others, to form an organization of their own to represent us.

I know for a fact that there are some that think along the same line as myself and maybe there are still others out there that think like that but have been or are too afraid to say so because of fear of being laughed at or worse.

It has become obvious for some years now that all the IRU has been interested in have been the Roma and that they wanted everyone by force too accept also the term Roma, regardless of whether or not the people actually would ascribe to that title.

So-called “leaders” of the Sinti even went as far as to accept this and referring to the Sinti, for instance, as a tribe – or even sub-tribe – of the Roma. Romanichals in Britain and from Britain began the same, calling themselves, in the UK, for instance, British Roma. There are no British Roma, and there are also only a few Roma in Britain.

The point is that first of all the Roma will never accept Sinti and related groups as Romani even, always referring to us as “Gadje”; even in our presence some do this while others are more subtle with this. The fact remains that to the Roma, in the main, with one or two exceptions, Sinto, Romanichals, etc. are not Romani, are not Gypsy, regardless of the fact that we are and that we, probably, have been in Europe well before the Roma and are, in fact, the higher caste.

I am well aware that there will be attacks on me for writing this here – and elsewhere away from our eyes – and the misguided souls will call me – and those that stand with me on this – divisive and worse but the truth is that the Sinti and related are NOT Roma (which part of the word NOT do those people not understand?) and that there is no way that the Roma will ever accept the fact that Sinti are Romani like them but not Roma. To them, in the main, we will always be the “Gadje”.

Only with our own federation, like that of the Mohawk Nations, can we create a level playing field in Romani politics. Everything that is being done from the EU and other bodies is but aimed at the Eastern European Roma (in Eastern Europe) with those Romani People in the West not getting even a looking in. This is a form of discrimination that cannot be permitted to exist any longer.

I do not care which “leader” of which organization has declared that Sinti, Romanichals, etc. are Roma. They do not represent most of us for we were never given a voice in their choices nor in their claims of representation and this goes, as far as I am concerned, for all of them.

It is high time that all of us looked a little closer at those that claim to represent us and stopped following them blindly. Many were never meant to be judges and leaders. They assumed a mantle that does not fit and that they were never meant to wear.

There seem to be a lot of organizations out there that are rather self-serving and when then someone who once worked for them exposes them and their shenanigans they are upset and get riled and claim that the person has no right to say what they did. Same with the IRWN as it was when someone wrote about the shenanigans of the Roma Parliament and the Congress.

The truth hurts, I guess!

© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009

P.S. You do not have to agree with me. If you don't don't flame. Flames will be most gleefully deleted. If you do agree with me you can comment anonymous, if you like, or you can write to me direct. Again flames per emails will be deleted and the sender blocked, LOL.