Saturday, December 18, 2010
GYPSIES AND TRAVELERS IN ENGLAND
'You've nothing to fear,' gypsies tell protesters
BY TOM BEVAN
PICTURE : ANTI GYPSY DEMONSTRATION IN ENGLAND. GUARDIAN.CO.UK
THE gypsy community has broken its silence on the controversy surrounding new sites in Exeter – and told protesters they have nothing to fear.
Public opposition to the proposal by Exeter City Council to include a gypsy and traveller site within the Newcourt development is continuing to mount and hundreds of protesters are expected to turn out to a public meeting at Sandy Park on Sunday.
But members of the Romany gypsy community who live in the area said the feeling of hostility and opposition has had a "heartbreaking" impact on them and their families.
Sally Woodbury, who used to live in Exeter but is now in Somerset, told the Echo: "We are no different to anyone else who wants somewhere to call home.
"It is total NIMBYism and whether they like it or not it is racism. But for some reason it is deemed socially acceptable.
"The majority of the people that will go to the meeting on Sunday will never have met a gypsy but the only answer to fight the stereotypes is to try to educate people.
"You can not kick a community of people around the country and push them to the outskirts of humanity, bullied and rejected their whole lives, and then want them to mix with the mainstream.
"But members of our community do contribute to society and we have more to fear from the settled community than they do from us. It is so distressing what is happening in Exeter at the moment, but it is something that goes on throughout the country.
"My message to them would be we are human beings and have feelings too and I just ask everyone to remember that.
"It has been really scary. The most upsetting thing is the comments the young children get when they go to school. "
Elizabeth Isaacs, also a Romany gypsy, who lives in a village near Exeter, said: "I watch the comments posted under the stories and every night I am reporting abuse.
"Some of the stuff they write is outrageous. One calling themselves Adolf Hitler posted: 'you did not like my idea'. How can that be acceptable? You are not allowed to say things like that about blacks or Asians or any other group of people in society.
"There are no statistics to say there is more crime in the gypsy community than any other community but it is a historical stereotype developed over hundreds of years.
"Other groups of people have come and been accepted but the Romany gypsies have not. The fear is so inbred and we always have to prove we are not thieves and dirty criminals. No other community is tarred with the same brush like we are. I am not saying all travellers are angels, but like everyone else there is good and bad in all groups of people and that includes the settled community."
Posted by Morgan at 2:04 PM