Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, has been nominated for the award of Council Leader of the Year by the Local Government Information Unit "in recognition of his role spearheading the eviction of Travellers from Dale Farm". The award ceremony takes place on Monday 27 ...February at Westminster City Council.

Not wanting Tony Ball to miss out on ALL of the recognition due to him, we will be presenting him with an alternative 'Community Wrecker of the Year Award'.

Please watch the video. It's great.



Robert Rustem: “Europe is threatened by a resurgence of intolerance”


By Robert Rustem, Executive Secretary of the European Roma and Travellers Forum

What will governments do now that they have Thomas Hammarberg’s comprehensive study of Europe’s decades-long crime wave against Roma and Traveller communities?

Surely, the Commissioner for Human Rights’ report has removed any doubt as to the industrial scale of anti-gipsyism in Europe and the staggering breadth of its impact.

At last, the ghastly ‘back to the future’ reality of people hounded from one place to the next, forced to live at the margins of society, refused basic civil rights and blamed for being the authors of their own misfortune, is revealed for all to see. It can no longer be wished away, denied, nor excused.

Of course, for the affected communities, Hammarberg’s findings are merely a confirmation of the myriad strange and brutal cruelties inflicted on Roma and Travellers on an almost daily basis.
It seems no longer newsworthy to record that Roma and Travellers “remain far behind others in education, employment and access to decent housing and health.”

Nonchalant shrugs accompany the declaration that the average life span of Roma and Travellers is shorter and their infant mortality rates are higher than other groups.

Yet, the picture of deep-seated bitterness and contempt towards Roma and Travellers that emerges from Hammarberg’s thorough investigation of more than 250 pages, blows away effortlessly any sense of complacency.

What is underlined boldly in this publication is the risible notion that all of Europe’s citizens enjoy human rights and protection under the law.

The observation that “as many as 90 000 women may have been sterilised on the territory of the former Czechoslovakia since the beginning of the 1980s,” is shocking.

The examples of race-hate terror and violence catalogued in the report make for grim reading and are a reminder to all that we turn a blind eye to ‘Romaphobia’ at our peril. Recent history shows all too clearly what can happen when the virus of ethnic hatred is allowed to flourish without challenge.
This is the warning of the Hammarberg report that should resound among the political elites in the Council of Europe’s member states. The publication of this report should smash the political consensus that has accompanied the raft of tragi-comic gestures and wasteful policies that represent much of the national and international response to ‘the Roma question.’

Truth commissions, as suggested by Hammarberg, to establish “the historical facts concerning the atrocities committed against the Roma people,” are but the start of a long road towards improvement.

Anti-gipsyism can be defeated but as Hammarberg makes clear, Europe is threatened once again by a resurgence of intolerance that may engulf us all. The forces now ranged against Roma communities, if left unchecked, could seek a defining conflict with the guardians of democracy and the rule of law also.

All who believe in human rights, freedom and Europe’s future, be they Roma or non-Roma, face a common danger, sign-posted by Thomas Hammarberg’s report.

We are all in this together.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Cirque Romanè: The Gypsy Circus in danger of deportation



MADRID, February 23, 2012—

Societal outcasts in many European countries, gypsies often struggle to integrate themselves while retaining their cultural identity. One group of successful Parisian gypsies clearly knows the ropes.
Cirque Romanè, the only remaining gypsy circus in Europe, is holding on tightly to their roots.

Parisians have filled the bleachers of the circus tent for 18 years to watch a show combining various spectacles such as acrobatics, dancing, juggling, tightrope walking and animal tricks.

Surrounded by trailers, the circus tent is dark. A few spotlights illuminate the worn area rugs, which form the stage. Bursting out from behind the sheets that form the backstage area, musicians play with drunken jolliness while dancing and shouting. The performers, both children and adults, do stunts and tricks with a contagious playfulness and a third-try’s-the-charm attitude.

However, any show could be their grand finale.

On August 26, 2010, France deported 700 gypsies to Romania and offered small monetary rewards for anyone who left voluntarily. The previous year, the government reported that they deported over 10,000 Roma sans citizenship.

The authorities refused to validate the work permits of five musicians who are in danger of deportation.

Combating accusations of the integrity of their circus, the family rallied with thousands against gypsy deportations in October of 2010. While deportation was the spark that started the fire, issues go far beyond politics.

In Spain, the rejection of gypsies from society is an age-old phenomenon. Roma have lived in Spain since the 15th century and have endured harsh laws, treatments and overall attempts to exclude them.
Madrileños, people from Madrid, can usually spot them on the street and most keep their distance. They also have a “mala fama” or bad reputation for being thieves. The majority of madrileños would think twice about using a cleaning service run by gypsies or allowing them in their homes at all. Many neighborhoods refuse to accept them.

Beyond rejection, “gitanos” are often the victims of public anger and racism.

In Madrid, many blame gypsies for drug problems and there are even cases of rioters burning down gypsy homes and villages.

While there is no doubt that there are gypsy narcotraficantes or drug traffickers, they are small in numbers. No matter the statistics, a large percentage of madrileños and Spaniards in general associate gypsies with drugs.

While many Spaniards maintain the stereotype that most gypsies live in small shacks or chabolas in Madrid’s outskirts, about half of Roma are homeowners.

Disregarding the stigmas, Spain has actually become a model country of gypsy integration by The European Commission, E.U. member countries and Roma themselves. Spain has taken many steps to give gypsies access to all social services and aid overall integration. Gypsy culture is also integral to Spain in the forms of flamenco dancing and traditional Spanish dress.

Only 7 percent of the Roma population lives in sub-standard housing or shanty towns according to “Health and the Roma Community, analysis of the situation in Europe,” a study funded by the European Union that compared the Roma population in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.

When the show is over, the gypsies are in no rush to shoo the audience members away. Welcomed in. Allowed to stay. They collect their pigeons, round up the little children, finish off the leftover mulled wine and warm pastries, mingle, and return to their caravans when the last lingering audience-members leave.

No drugs. No theft. Just a show with a rich history and an uncertain future.

Thanks for permission to reprint this article.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


French Socialist Party presidential candidate calls for interning the Roma




In a February 12 interview on Canal Plus TV, François Hollande, Socialist Party candidate for president in the upcoming elections, proposed as a “solution” to the presence in France of Roma European Union (EU) citizens “the creation of camps ... to accommodate them”.

The association of a “solution” in relation to specific racial groups with special camps can only bring to mind the period of Nazi rule in Europe, during which not only Jews and homosexuals, but also Roma and gypsies were rounded up and sent to extermination camps. This was not lost on many French people.

Hollande called for the establishment of “European rules to avoid our experiencing this constant to and fro [of the Roma]. Let there be camps that we can decide on, that is, to avoid these people settling just anywhere ... [to] enable these people to go back to Romania ... and not then return to France”.

Put more concretely, the Roma would be rounded up, and after their improvised encampments were broken up, they would be sent back to Romania, the same policy the present right-wing government of President Nicolas Sarkozy is pursuing.

The “Socialist” Hollande’s innovation is to suggest the building of internment camps and then preventing the Roma from returning by some sort of frontier control. Hollande is here attacking the free movement within the EU of these European citizens, one of the few progressive measures European capitalism temporarily conceded in the Schengen agreement in 1985.

Ruling UMP (Union for a Popular Majority) deputies pounced on Hollande’s statement to justify the brutality of the governments’ current policy. On RTL radio, minister for apprenticeship Nadine Morano, a rabid racist, claimed that she was “profoundly shocked” by this “outlandish proposal ... We [the government] were the ones who organised the dismantling of the Roma camps with legal procedures, in accordance with French law”, while “Mr. Hollande is proposing the creation of camps for Roma in France.”

An estimated 12,000 to 15,000 Roma, citizens of Romania and Bulgaria, have legally come to France since their countries joined the European Union in 2007. According to the BBC, ten other EU countries, including Germany, Italy, Denmark and Sweden, which also welcomed Roma, are likewise introducing deportation policies. Measures adopted by a number of European states, including France, limit access to work and residence rights for Romanian and Bulgarian migrants until December 12, 2013, when the restrictions will end. It is clear that Hollande would not want to end these restrictions but, rather, extend and reinforce them.

It is difficult to distinguish Hollande’s statements from Sarkozy’s infamous Grenoble speech of June 30, 2010: “We’ll examine the rights and welfare entitlements, currently available to foreigners living in suspiciously irregular circumstances.… The general rule is clear: illegals must be directed back to their own countries”, said Sarkozy. He had already asked the interior minister “to put an end to unauthorized gypsy settlements. These are lawless zones not to be tolerated in France”.

EU commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding accused the Sarkozy government of “discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin or race” and of calling into question “the common values and laws of our European Union”. She described the French policy as a “disgrace”. She implicitly compared the actions of the French government with those of the fascists during the Second World War. In the event, she backed down and Sarkozy has been able to continue with this “disgrace”.

Hollande is currently justifying Socialist Party-dominated town councils’ current practice in relation to Roma settlements. Essonne Info reported that on February 13, his campaign manager Manuel Valls, mayor of Evry, “by a mayoral municipal decree ... called on the préfet [police chief] to clear by force the children and their parents and bulldoze their encampment”. There is no report that the mayor offered them alternative accomodation.

Discussion about the closing of frontiers between EU countries flared up in 2011, when Tunisian refugees fleeing state repression and devastated living conditions through Italy were prevented by the French government from crossing the Italian border, where they were legal, into France where many had family and friends.

The announcement of Hollande’s Roma “solution” came only days after the controversy created by Martinique deputy Serge Latchimi, who said that minister of the interior Claude Guéant’s comment that some civilisations were superior to others was close to Nazism. Hollande refused to support Latchimi’s position.

Hollande is appealing to the most backward elements in French society and distancing himself from wide layers of the population deeply opposed to the brutality of the state’s attacks on fundamental human rights.

When accused of being “soft” on illegal immigrants, Hollande likes to cite his election programme: “I will conduct an implacable struggle against illegal immigration ... Legal residence will be granted case-by-case on objective criteria”. 

The Socialist Party candidate did not offer any criticism of minister of the interior Guéant’s proud achievement of expelling 32,912 undocumented immigrants in 2011, up from 28,026 in 2010, a 17.5 percent increase. 

In response to a remark by Sarkozy suggesting that Hollande favoured mass legalisation of undocumented immigrants, the Socialist Party’s Mireille Le Corre, in charge of “immigration-integration” policy, insisted: “François Hollande … is not for carrying out mass legalisations, but for re-establishing a fair and transparent procedure. Foreigners whose circumstances do not comply with a possible legalisation will go through an expulsion procedure, under conditions which respect their rights and their dignity”.

Hollande’s anti-immigrant positions are reinforced by the fact that the entire bourgeois and petty-bourgeois “left”—the Socialist Party, Communist Party, Left Party and New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA)—worked actively with Sarkozy in Islamophobic campaigns to ban the burqa and, before that, the Muslim veil in schools. They are now all mobilising behind Hollande in the presidential elections in April-May to enable the French bourgeoisie to ride out the economic crisis by destroying the rights and living standards of the working class as is now under way in Greece.



Yearning to Breath Free




PHOTO  www.gettyimages.com
A decade from today, 20 Percent of some Eastern European countries will have a Roma ancestry. Yet despite strength in numbers, the cycle of exclusion and marginalization persists.

What comes to mind when we hear the word “Roma”? The picture that emerges from media reports is that Roma migrate from the Eastern parts of the EU to settle in the West and North. There they tend to come into conflict with the authorities and the locals when settling in sometimes illegal settlements. It is common to read articles focussing on petty crimes committed by some Roma and of repeated violent attacks against Roma people.

Do the headlines give us the full picture of everyday life for the ten to twelve million Roma in the EU? Of course not. For a start, the vast majority do not migrate to other countries, and there are hardly any nomads left among today’s Roma. Furthermore, being Roma does not inevitably mean a life of discrimination and marginalization. I have met Roma teachers, doctors, professors.

However, the Roma are the most discriminated against minority group in the EU. A FRA (European Union Agency for Fundamental Human Rights) survey highlighted that 60% of Roma respondents had experienced discrimination when looking for work, and only a very small minority get education beyond 5th grade.
Discrimination perpetuates the vicious circle of poverty and social exclusion: exclusion from education leads to exclusion from employment, which leads to increased poverty, which forces people to live in poor or segregated housing which, in turn, affects their educational and employment opportunities, as well as their health. And the circle starts again…
Marginalization does not just carry a social cost. It also results in skills and talents that can benefit our economies going undeveloped. The Roma population is growing: in a decade, one out of five people in some Eastern European countries will be Roma. In a difficult global market, can Europe realistically afford not to promote the full social and economic inclusion of all its peoples?

To break this cycle of poverty, social exclusion and discrimination, we need an integrated approach that promotes access to housing, employment, education and health care simultaneously.

In many Member States there are a multitude of Roma inclusion strategies and policies. However, they sometimes address myths and prejudices rather than reality, because surprisingly little data has been collected on the Roma by national governments.
But how can policymakers hope to develop effective policies without knowing the situation on the ground?
In April this year, the European Commission established an EU framework for national Roma integration strategies. This marks a promising new start for more targeted and sustainable national level approaches, with effective use of EU funds, and systematic measurement of progress on the ground.

All of this must be done not only for, but with the Roma. They must have a say, and take responsibility, in determining their own future. Equally important, their non-Roma neighbors must also be involved. To develop a more positive relationship between the majority and Roma populations, we need to address mutual fears and acknowledge where problems exist on both sides. We cannot continue to ignore violence and discrimination against Roma, just as we cannot ignore the theft, begging and trafficking committed by some Roma. Only an open discourse can bring us forward and break down hostile attitudes. This is the only way to fight prejudice and build community cohesion where it counts: at the local level.



Morten Kjærum directs the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) in Vienna. He was the founding Director of the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) from 2002 to 2008, and of the EU network of independent experts responsible for monitoring compliance with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights from 2002 to 2006.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Everyone's favourite racist documentary is back on our screens but take it from me, a Romany Gypsy, it's a work of complete fiction.




Dear Channel 4,

I am writing to you with the hope that you will stop ruining my life. While your obsession with my ethnicity is flattering, it has become somewhat apparent to me that you might have gotten the wrong end of the stick. This is sort of awkward for me, because I don’t want to be the one to break it to you, but your documentary, ’Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’, is unfortunately a work of fiction. There is no need to be embarrassed, it can happen to the best of us, and thus I hope my letter will help you establish the facts, after all I’m sure you are passionate about fighting discrimination against ethnic minorities.

Don’t be modest now, we know you are…right?

It surprised me to discover that 99% of Britain’s Gypsy and Traveller population are Irish. Correct me if I’m wrong, as I am sure you have done lots and lots of research on this topic, but just 10% of the Gypsy andTraveller population are actually Irish Travellers. The majority, like myself, are in fact Romany, yet your ‘documentary’ seems to ignore our existence. While I have nothing but respect for the Irish Traveller community, you seem to be unaware that we are two distinct ethnic groups and thus there are many differences between our cultures. While Irish Travellers originate from Ireland, we can trace our routes back to India, so it was hardly surprising that I was somewhat confused when you use the word Gypsy in the title of your ‘documentary’ about Irish Travellers. I was even more confused when your ‘documentary’ about Irish Travellers seemed to feature an alien culture that even most Irish Traveller’s didn’t recognise.

You correctly identified that many Gypsy and Traveller children leave school at a young age, however you failed to mention that this is not because we are all born to terrible parents, but because our communities suffer from great social exclusion. State education fails to adapt to anything but mainstream culture, thus we have to contend with a curriculum that is totally irrelevant to our way of life. Moreover, both teachers and students seem ignorant of our cultures, thus we are labelled as troublemakers and bullied for being different. The myths that you have been spreading have not helped matters. Indeed, I was subjected to physical attacks during your last series of your ‘documentary’ which ultimately led to my expulsion from school (long story), whilst my 12 year old cousin was beat up on her way home from school by a gang of girls who were calling her a prostitute.

As you can see, there are many reasons as to why Gypsy and Traveller children are failing to attend school, but you seem to have forgotten to feature those of us that do stay in education. Take myself, for example, I’m currently at college studying a range of subjects such as, History and Sociology. Moreover, my sister trained to be a hairdresser, my aunty went to university and is now a social worker and some of my cousins completed apprenticeships, thus clearly dropping out of education is not a prerequisite of living in a trailer.

Your ‘documentary’ has an unhealthy obsession with little girls. While I understand that the outfits worn by some of your younger stars could be considered a little risqué, I see only little girls having fun and dressing up for a special occasion. Your ‘documentary’ appears to be suggesting that we are inappropriately sexualising our children, yet the only people who are sexualising our children are the viewers who watch them and think they are sexy. In reality, our little girls can mostly be found in velour tracksuits and handmade frilly dresses, so I would suggest you should stop filming little girls dancing if you are finding that this is turning on your viewers.
My 12 year old cousin was beat up on her way home from school by a gang of girls who were calling her a prostitute.
After watching the last series of your ‘documentary’ it finally hit me why I was so unlucky in love. I would have been married by now, if only I had known that the key to a women’s heart was to sexually assault her using a gypsy courting ritual called ‘grabbing’. I asked my brother if he had grabbed his wife, but it turned out he had just asked her out on a date instead. It appears that in reality, no one actually knows what grabbing is, in fact Gypsy and Traveller men actually have a lot of respect for their women after all.

Speaking of love, I’ve been to many Gypsy and Traveller weddings, but I’m yet to attend a wedding where the bride’s dress weighs more than my whole family. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some huge dresses but there is something you need to know: Thelma Madine is lying to you, she’s not our dressmaker of choice. In fact, I’m kind of embarrassed for her because no one actually knows who she is and everything she says about us is actually untrue. Basically, you’ve been conned, so I suggest you find a new spokesperson for the Gypsy and Traveller communities, such as an actual Gypsy or Traveller like my Baba (grandma), she makes some right nice clothes you know.

It’s hardly surprising that people are watching your ‘documentary’ purely to laugh at us, because even I laugh at the monstrosities that Thelma Madine creates. It is a shame that you haven’t featured any Gypsy or Traveller designers because the clothing that we were actually more traditionally known for before your ‘documentary’, is actually far more interesting than amusing. Last year, Leeds University Union thought it would be okay to laugh at the Gypsy and Traveller communities by hosting a Big Fat Gypsy Weddings fancy dress party. While the union holds events throughout the year to celebrate other ethnic minorities, your ‘documentary’ encouraged them to incite ethnic hatred. You’ll be pleased to know that due to complaints from yours truly and friends, the event was shelved.

You seem to have misunderstood what a documentary about Gypsies should entail. Gypsies (as in Romany Gypsies that are completely different to Irish Travellers, that are like totally not Irish Travellers at all, get it?) are Europe’s largest and most deprived ethnic minority. The majority of Romani people have never been to Rathkeale, let alone own houses there. In fact, most live in great poverty and I suggest you read my previous blogs. We suffer from discrimination on a daily basis and our human rights have historically been violated, yet you deem it acceptable to broadcast a misleading ‘documentary’ that has been made not to raise awareness of our plight but for entertainment. We are not a joke, we are human beings and your work of fiction is only strengthening stereotypes and ignorance.

Unlike those who star in your ‘documentary’ I am not after 5 minutes of fame, but what I am asking for, is for you to put humans above ratings. You can’t ignore us forever.
Yours sincerely,


This blog first appeared

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


The following is a comment I received on the blog.
This film is very good, if difficult.

I can already anticipate critics asking why Romani spend money on cigarettes.
Frankly, I am tired of answering this question.

Comment on blog.

This article reminds me of a documentary "Free Society" which talks about the Roma population living in Belgrade had a quite different life than they do nowadays. Nenad, 20-year-old Roma boy, tells of the differences between the past and the present, of the life they live now, of the ways to earn money by collecting old iron and paper, and by washing car windows.

To watch the documentary online visit:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012






Monday, February 13, 2012


Mr. President, at the end of January, something remarkable happened: Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Rudolf Chmel made a positive statement about Roma. Saying something nice about Europe's largest ethnic minority may not seem newsworthy, but it is and here is why.

The Deputy Prime Minister reacted to an escalation of anti-Roma rhetoric in the run-up to Slovakia's March 10 parliamentary elections by calling on political parties not to play the ``Roma card.'' But more than that, he welcomed a landmark decision of the European Court on Human Rights holding that the sterilization of a Slovak Romani woman without her consent had been cruel and inhuman. He welcomed the findings of a Slovak court that concluded Romani children had been placed in segregated schools in eastern Slovakia. And he commended the human rights organization that had helped litigate both these cases.

To say that statements like these are few and far between is an understatement. On the contrary, officials at the highest levels of government frequently perpetuate the worst bigotry against Roma.
For example, after four perpetrators were convicted and sentenced for a racially motivated firebombing that left a Romani toddler burned over 80 percent of her body, Czech President Vaclav Klaus wondered if their 20-plus-year sentences were too harsh. Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi suggested that Roma were ``physiologically'' disposed to crime. Last year, President Silvio Berlusconi warned the electorate of Milan to vote for his party lest their city become a ``Gypsyopolis.'' And French President Nicolas Sarkozy has explicated targeted Roma --from EU countries--for expulsion from France. The common thread in most of this rhetoric is the portrayal of Roma as inherently criminal.

Nearly 20 years ago in the New York Times--Dec. 10, 1993--Vaclav Havel described the treatment of Roma as a litmus test for civil society. Today, Europe is still failing that test miserably. As Hungary's Minister for Social Inclusion Zolton Balog has argued, Roma are worse off today than they were under communism. While a small fraction of Roma have benefited from new opportunities, many more have been the absolute losers in the transition from the command-to-a market economy, and vast numbers live in a kind of poverty that the United Nations Development Programme described as more typically found in sub-Saharan Africa than Europe. Endemic discrimination has propelled economic marginalization downward at an exponential pace, and the past 20 years have been marked by outbreaks of hate crimes and mob violence against Roma that are on the rise again.

In the current environment, those who play with anti-Roma rhetoric are playing with a combustible mix.

In the near term, there is the real prospect that fueling prejudice against Roma will spark interethnic violence. Before Bulgaria's local elections last October, the extremist Ataka party parlayed an incident involving a Romani mafia boss into anti-Romani rioting in some 14 towns and cities. In the Czech Republic, the government has had to mount massive shows of law enforcement to keep anti-Roma mobs from degenerating into all-out pogroms; its worked so far, but at a huge cost.

Significantly, Roma are not always standing by while the likes of the Hungarian Guard mass on their doorsteps; they have sometimes gathered sticks, shovels, scythes, and anything else handy in an old-school defense.

Even without the prospect of violence, there is a longer term threat to many countries with larger Romani populations: if they fail to undertake meaningful integration of Roma , they will find their economies hollowed out from within. More than a decade ago, then-Hungarian Minister of Education Zolton Pokorni said that one out of every three children starting school that year would be Romani. Some economic forecasts now suggest that by 2040, 40 percent of the labor force in Hungary will be Romani. A number of other countries face similar trajectories.

A desperately impoverished, uneducated, and marginalized population will not serve as the backbone of a modern and thriving economy. But several studies have shown that the cost of investing in the integration of Roma --housing, education, and job training and the like--will be more than offset by gains in GNP and tax revenue. In order to undertake those integration policies, somebody has to build popular support for them. And that is where Mr. Chmel comes in.

Until now, most popular discourse about Roma seems predicated on the ostrich-like belief that perhaps they can be made to go away. Few politicians have shown the courage and foresight to reframe public discourse in any way that acknowledges Europe's future will definitely include Roma . Mr. Chmel has taken an important step in that direction. I hope he will inspire others.


They call it “La Retirada” in Spanish, or “la retraite” in French, or “the retreat”.




(Note from Morgan---This is the first year that Romani were invited to the annual commemoration)

Seventy years ago, in less than two months, half a million people fled from Spain to the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Franco’s troops were sweeping through Catalunya: Tarragona fell on 14 January, followed by Barcelona on 26 January and Girona on 5 February. Five days later, the last resistance in Catalunya was broken.
The defeated republican soldiers and refugees walked through the snow, in a long march across the high passes of the Pyrenees. France wasn’t prepared for the huge exodus, and didn’t exactly roll out the red carpet, or any other coloured carpet for that matter.

The women and children were divided into shelters, and the local hospitals were swamped. Some of them, such as the hospital of Saint Louis de Perpignan, would only admit the sick or seriously wounded patients, at the expense of women on the verge of childbirth. So the majority of pregnant refugees from January to October 1939 gave birth in the stables of Hares, near Perpignan. The rate of infant mortality approached 90%, and the women themselves often died due to complications during delivery.

Meanwhile the men were herded into makeshift open-air camps, on the beaches of Argelès, Saint Cyprien and Barcarès.

Internment or exile

After a bitter civil war, and the long march and the cold, hunger and disease, they were housed in squalid conditions in about 31 internment camps around the region. You can get some idea of the scale of all of this from Robert Capa’s photos of the camps and of the Retirada itself

Some of the refugees later emigrated again, to North America or South America. An example is the ship of 2,000 people who ended up in Chile – one of the mercy missions arranged by the Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda, a diplomat in France at the time.

Others were returned to Franco’s Spain, ending up in the Miranda de Ebro camp for “purification”. Others again were forced into work gangs. After the fall of France in June 1940 and the establishment of the Vichy government in June 1940, the French police tried to round up those who had been liberated, and the remaining refugees in the camps became political prisoners. Many ended up in the Nazi death camps.

Others survived and eventually integrated into French society. They include a charming old man in our village who walks his little old dogs past our house every day. At first glance he looks like a shepherd with four very well behaved sheep trotting around him. We haven’t seen him lately, so we hope he’s OK. The mind boggles to think how he would have been eight or nine when he took part in La Retirada

Commemoration of the "Retirada" ( the Retreat), like every month of february to commemorate the exil of the spanish antifascists whom ended up in the concentrationnary camps in southern France.

For the first time, the Romanies were invited to this event, and the romanies from Perpignan brought out the romani flag.

This chapter of the "Holocauste", of romanies dying side by side with spanish antifascists, has always being silenced, because these camps where not controlled by german Nazis, but by the French government of Vichy.


Sunday, February 19, 2012


On this date, in 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which called for the internment of citizens of Japanese descent.

The government has at least apologized and paid reparations, not that that really means much.

But still, I wonder when this country will stand up to its legacy of slavery and racism against Americans of African descent.

Truth and reconciliation instead of denial.

Perhaps the reparations owed  would be too much eh.

PHOTO  www.yippiemuseum.org





The drama from Bence Fliegauf focuses on the plight of the Roma in Hungary.

BERLIN – Bence Fliegauf’s Just the Wind, the story of a murderous campaign against a Romany family in Hungary, has won this year’s Amnesty film prize at the Berlin International Film Festival.

The drama, which screened in competition at this year’s Berlinale, is based on the on an actual series of killings in Hungary that claimed eight lives in less than a year.
“The film shows, in an artistic way, the horrific situation of the Roma in Hungary,” the jury said in its decision.
The Amnesty film prized, backed by Amnesty International, comes with a $6500 (€5000) bursary. The prize is granted to films focusing on human rights issues.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Happy Birthday Yoko.

I'm one of those who appreciated you as an artist and musician years before you even met John.  And I also appreciated your politics.  Remember the Jill Johnston days?  You were always anti war and pro people.  You supported Gays before it was fashionable.

I always feel bad that you never got the independent recognition you deserved.

I was a groupie way back when you were doing performances in the village. and upstate New York.


U.S. Pays Much-Needed Attention to Violence Against Roma


By Joëlle Fiss, Senior Associate, Fighting Discrimination Program
17/02/2012 -
For many of Hungary’s 600,000 Roma, the month of February brings back dismal memories. Just after midnight on February 23, 2009, Robert Csorba and his 4-year-old-son were shot dead as they ran from their burning home in Tatárszentgyörgy, Hungary.

Other violence stuck Hungary’s Roma in 2009. There were dozens of hate crimes, many involving guns, Molotov cocktails, and severe beatings.

Four men are on trial in Budapest, accused of carrying out nine attacks between July 2008 and August 2009 that killed six Roma, including Robert Csorba and his son. In 2009 Hungarian President László Sólyom said these murders “threaten[ed] the stability of Hungary.” The authorities need to move more expeditiously to bring this trial to a close.

Meanwhile, prejudice continues.

“Gypsy criminality” (cigánybűnözés) is one of the most prevalent anti-Roma stereotypes. It permeates all parts of Hungarian life—and can be found as commonly in the media as the local pub. Extremist groups, particularly the xenophobic Jobbik, nurture these prejudices. Also, Ill-treatment and discrimination by the police fuel mistrust among Roma, who for this reason are reluctant to report hate crimes.

These concerning developments have not gone unnoticed by the U.S. government. At a roundtable with young Roma professionals in Bulgaria on February 5, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of completing “the unfinished business of Europe,” which in her eyes includes “the full integration of the Roma people into the societies and nations where they reside.” Most importantly, she announced that the United States will join the Decade of Roma Inclusion, as an official observer.

The Decade brings together governments and civil society to increase the socioeconomic inclusion of Roma. As an observer, the United States can play a positive role in shaping the discussions. The U.S. should develop a strategy to maximize its influence.

And on February 15, the U.S. Helsinki Commission hosted “The Escalation of Violence against Roma in Europe,” chaired by Congressman Chris Smith. Human Rights First submitted a testimony, focusing on what more the U.S. government should be doing. These discussions are important: they ensure that policymakers in Washington stay focused on this serious human rights problem.

Hungary and other European nations have the primary responsibility to address violence against Roma. But the U.S. government is correct to play a role.

Link: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/2012/02/17/u-s-pays-much-needed-attention-to-violence-against-roma/

Friday, February 17, 2012


There have been several reports of hacking of Romani activist sites.

This is really sad news.

Roma Buzz Aggregator and Romea.cz are two of the sites hacked.

Will keep you updated.







PHOTO:  Luminita Mihai Cioaba

UW-Seattle campus, CMU 120
(Communications Building, Room 120)

Free and open to the public

In Romania, in 1942, the military dictator and Nazi ally Marshall Ion
Antonescu ordered the mass deportations of Roma (Gypsy) people and Jews to

In this documentary, Luminita Mihai Cioaba, Roma cultural leader in Transylvania, Romania interviews some of the last remaining Roma Holocaust survivors of these little known historical events.

Film screening followed by Q & A with Ms. Cioaba.

This event is sponsored by the Department of Spanish & Portuguese; the
Department of Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media Studies Program;
the Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences; Educational Outreach;
The Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012




SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mormon church leaders apologized to the family of Holocaust survivor and Jewish rights advocate Simon Wiesenthal after his parents were posthumously baptized, a controversial ritual that Mormons believe allows deceased people a way to the afterlife but offends members of many other religions.
Wiesenthal died in 2005 after surviving the Nazi death camps and spending his life documenting Holocaust crimes and hunting down perpetrators who remained at large. Jews are particularly offended by an attempt to alter the religion of Holocaust victims, who were murdered because of their religion, and the baptism of Holocaust survivors was supposed to have been barred by a 1995 agreement.

Yet records indicate Wiesenthal's parents, Asher and Rosa Rapp Wiesenthal, were baptized in proxy ceremonies performed by Mormon church members at temples in Arizona and Utah in late January.

In a statement, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced the baptismal rites.
"We are outraged that such insensitive actions continue in the Mormon temples," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the center.

The church immediately apologized, saying it was the actions of an individual member of church — whom they did not name — that led to the submission of Wiesenthal's name.

"We sincerely regret that the actions of an individual member of the church led to the inappropriate submission of these names," Michael Purdy, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in a statement issued Monday. "We consider this a serious breach of our protocol and we have suspended indefinitely this person's ability to access our genealogy records."

Mormons believe posthumous baptism by proxy allows deceased persons to receive the Gospel in the afterlife. The church believes departed souls can then accept or reject the baptismal rites and contends the offerings are not intended to offend anyone.

Other religions, including the Catholic church, have also publicly objected to the baptism of its members, and it's been widely reported that Mormon and GOP presidential nominee front-runner Mitt Romney's atheist father-in-law Edward Davies was posthumously baptized.

A check of the records by Salt Lake City researcher Helen Radkey showed the baptism occurred in November 1993. The record suggests a family member may have submitted Davies' name, which would be in line with the rules for entering names in the database.

Changes made to the church database in 2010 were intended to better prevent names of Holocaust victims from being submitted for rites.

Radkey found documentation of the baptism of the Wiesenthals last week while conducting regular checks of a church database. Jews have relied on the work of Radkey, a former Mormon, since 1999, although Mormon church officials have publicly questioned her motives for reviewing the database.
On Tuesday she told The Associated Press she periodically checks the database for the Wiesenthal name to gauge whether the latest Mormon efforts to screen the process were working.

Radkey's recent monitoring also turned up a record for Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and several of his relatives.

"None of the three names were submitted for baptism and they would not have been under the church's guidelines and procedures," Purdy said. "The names were simply entered into a genealogical database. Submission for proxy baptism is a separate process."

New Jersey-based Jewish genealogy experts Gary Mokotoff said publicity about the Wiesenthal baptism will help solve the problem, which he believes is likely limited to a small number of overzealous church members who believe they are providing a service to their church.

"If the word gets out that there are consequences, they'll stop," said Mokotoff, who has also participated in talks with Mormon leaders. "But no one has a right to involve other person's families in their religion. That's basically what's wrong about the whole concept."



Dory Previn died yesterday.  All obituaries talked of her 'cult following'. 

I am gladly among those.

My favorite song is
Twenty Mile Zone


Unfortunately, instead of being known for her music, she is more commonly known as the abandoned wife of Andre Previn, who left her for Mia Farrow.

Ain't life a hoot.

Listen to Dory at

Tuesday, February 14, 2012



Be still my heart.  For Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year in New York, Patti Smith performed at a concert/event sponsored by Occupy Wall Street.

Please visit the above site.

She is one of the unacknowledged heras of our time.

Thanks Patti, one of the true grandmothers of political rock.

I have loved her forever and I hope this video shows that she is as important as a poet (more so I contend) than as a punk rocker.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Today, Governor Christine Gregoire signed a bill legalizing Gay marriage in Washington State. 

Gays can get married here this June, UNLESS of course the bigotted in the state get enough signatures to challenge it.

I know I should be celebrating but I just can't. 

I have worked for the rights of gay men and lesbians for decades now, but marriage is no more important to me than gays in the military. 

I really couldn't celebrate gays in the military because I don't believe ANYONE should serve in the military.  So now gay people can go to foreign lands and kill working people or be killed by them.

Forgive me if I don't open the champagne.

I've also been opposed to the institution of marriage for my entire political career.  Guess I'm just one of those old cynical feminists.

We have come a long way.

I wasn't at the original Stonewall Riot, but I was at the demonstrations in New York for all the following days.

We were beaten, attacked by police on horseback, locked up, committed to mental prisons...

We had such high hopes for the Gay movement.  Those were the days of Lavendar Menace,
Radical Dykes, Radical Fairies, and other groups dedicated to the common good. 

We sought alliances with the poor in both the U.S. and abroad. 

We joined with Angela Davis in supporting political prisoners and the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr in confronting racism, sexism, poverty and war.

So, it's good news about Gay marriage, but please forgive me if I just don't feel like celebrating.

PHOTO: www.usatoday.com





PHOTO: http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/swiss_news/Roma_travel_in_search_of_winter_asylum.html?cid=32089414
 The number of Serbian asylum seekers, generally Roma, has peaked in Switzerland in recent months.
This “winter tourism” can be explained by the worsening quality of life for this persecuted community not only in Serbia but also in Kosovo.

The phenomenon first appeared after the lifting of travel restrictions for citizens of Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia to the Schengen zone, including Switzerland, in December 2009.
Most arrivals came from disadvantaged social groups, above all the Roma, who came looking for work despite knowing that they didn’t have the right to political asylum.

“Local agencies even offered direct coach trips,” said Michael Glauser, spokesman for the Federal Migration Office.

“These people knew Switzerland granted return assistance worth SFr600 ($650). This has since been reduced to SFr100 – to cover the trip back – and the requests have dropped as a consequence.”

However, this influx has recently started to increase again: last year, 1,217 requests for asylum out of a total of 22,551 were made by Serbs, most of them Roma. Half of these applications were made in November and December.

Board and lodging

“We can only suppose that half of these people, who often live in make-shift camps, come to spend winter in Switzerland where they know they’ll get board and lodging for the duration of their application. That can’t be ruled out,” Glauser said.

What is certain is that the Roma, well informed about the various asylum laws, know that the two- or three-month process in Switzerland is longer than in similar countries such as Norway and the Netherlands.

The Swiss Refugee Council, an umbrella group for Swiss refugee organisations, agrees with the “winter tourism” theory to an extent.

“There were many Roma refugees from Bosnia and Kosovo who have been living in a risky situation since 1999. They know they have no chance [of getting asylum in Switzerland], but they know our legal weak spots,” said Beat Meiner, the council’s head.

The economic crisis which hit Europe hasn’t helped. According to Meiner, “the Roma are often more than happy to find temporary refuge in welcome centres or even civil protection shelters”.


Amnesty International is sceptical. “It might be true that the Roma are more likely to leave during the cold season, but I don’t think they do it with the sole intention of spending the winter somewhere,” said Denise Graf from the human rights organisation.

“They could also go to Germany or other countries which suspend deportation of rejected asylum seekers during the winter – unlike Switzerland.”

Glauser confirms that “deportations continue after the final decision on an asylum request”.
Amnesty is concerned above all by the worsening situation of Roma refugees in Serbia.

“The problem is economic because, tied to the ethnic issue, a full 97 per cent of them are unemployed,” Graf said.


A new problem has arisen with property speculation.

“The Roma are starting to be forced out of their lodgings,” according to the latest report by Nicola Duckworth, responsible for Europe and Asia for Amnesty.

“In Belgrade, their houses are being razed to make space for property projects of the Serbian state. They are neither relocated nor given social aid.”

Elsewhere, there’s the resurgence of tensions in the Kosovan city of Mitrovica, where the Serb minority still rejects the Albanian-speakers’ declaration of independence in 2008.

“The violence which broke out last summer has a direct influence on the situation of the large number of Roma in Mitrovica,” Graf said.

“What’s more, we’re worried about Roma in other parts of Kosovo, because they have often been accused of collaborating with the Serbs during the war.”

Poor image

In Switzerland too, the Roma have a poor image among the population.

“Here, like elsewhere, they’re considered vagrants and thieves – to the point that Roma who are integrated prefer not to say where they’re from,” said Cristina Kruck, from the Zurich-based Rroma Foundation.

In Lausanne and Geneva, police regularly break up unauthorised camps set up under bridges or in parks. Begging – not to mention prostitution – have increased, which the authorities have tackled to varying degrees and with varying levels of success.

As for the situation in the Balkans, Graf called on Switzerland to “exert pressure on its partners in Serbia and Kosovo so that the aid granted by the European Union towards the reintegration of Roma reaches its destination”.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) responded that “in the matter of international cooperation, the SDC is aware of a latent risk of withdrawing the means made available”.

It added that methods existed to offset this risk, such as independent audits and assessments of the projects’ progress – progress to which the payments are tied.
(Translated from French by Thomas Stephens)






On Jan. 27, Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist held a Holocaust Remembrance Service for the Romani people (gypsies). Much of what I knew of the Romani people before this service was based on misinformation — gypsies cheat, steal and curse you. Prejudices and oppression are based on misinformation. The Romani are a wonderful people with a rich history dating back thousands of years to their origins in India.

Did you know that tens of thousands of Romani were killed during World War II? Did you know the United Nations Association has refused to allow the Romani to be part of its Holocaust Remembrance Services? And did you know that many of the Romani people in Europe today are being abused, oppressed, even euthanized? Even Romani who are in the United States are afraid of experiencing prejudice. Some were afraid to attend the Remembrance Service because they felt there might be consequences if they were identified as Romani — loss of business, accused of cheating/stealing and being treated as outsiders.

The O Porrajmos Education Society is an organization that is supporting the Romani. The organization helps people learn about this culture and its people. The Romani people believe that after they die, their soul will remain alive so long as they are remembered. My hope is that we will not forget them and we will begin to look into the atrocities that are perpetrated on them.

Rev. Tom Capo
Peoples Church
Unitarian Universalist
Cedar Rapids
Millions of Romani were murdered during the Porraimos.  I do wish people would accept that fact.

Saturday, February 11, 2012





The nationalist Slovak National Party (Slovenská národní strana - SNS) has once again decided to use anti-Romani billboards in its campaign prior to the parliamentary elections in March. The opposition party, which has been hovering in public opinion polls around the threshold required to be elected, made similar moves prior to the 2010 elections.

"How long are we going to lose on the gypsies? Let's change it!" the opposition SNS announces on one of its billboards, which juxtaposes a photo of Romani people outside an apartment building with an image of party head Ján Slota. On another billboard, the SNS warns voters that another political party has included a Romani man on its candidate list.

The SNS played the anti-Romani card two years ago. A billboard with the party's logo depicted a half-dressed, obese Romani man and the slogan "Let's not feed those who don't want to work". After charges that the SNS was conducting a racist campaign, the party had the billboards papered over.

SNS is facing criticism from NGOs over the current campaign. The party is defending itself by saying it is merely pointing out the need to address Romani people's bad social situation. Many Romani people live in settlements where the hygienic conditions are unsuitable and there is no electricity or other form of energy. Several hundred thousand Romani people are estimated to live in Slovakia.

In the past, international organizations have warned that Romani people are discriminated against in Slovakia and that the situation is deteriorating. Today the Slovak Parliament, at the suggestion of the opposition, halted discussion of a controversial bill drafted by MPs aligned with the coalition government that would have reduced state benefits to parents caring for small children by one-half should the parents have been unemployed for a long time.

The authors of the bill made no secret of the fact that their initiative is also aimed against Romani people who do not seek work and rely completely on state welfare. The lower house is to discuss a similar bill which would make it possible to reduce the state's contribution to parents from the moment a child is born.

In addition to its anti-Romani campaign, the nationalist SNS is also using slogans targeting neighboring Hungary. "We've been defending Slovak land for 140 years. Orbán's boat is sinking," is the SNS message, which references Hungary's economic problems under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Prior to the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918, Slovakia was part of Hungary. SNS head Slota, who is known for his anti-Hungarian invective, has repeatedly claimed in the past that Budapest has not abandoned the idea of reviving "Greater Hungary". He has also announced that in the south of Slovakia, many members of the Hungarian minority live, there is a risk that the region will declare autonomy.
Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

Friday, February 10, 2012


US Marines posed with Nazi symbol in Afghanistan

Associated PressBy JULIE WATSON | Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Marine Corps on Thursday once again did damage control after a photograph surfaced of a sniper team in Afghanistan posing in front of a flag with a logo resembling that of the notorious Nazi SS — a special unit that murdered millions of Jews, gypsies and others.

The Corps said in a statement that using the symbol was not acceptable, but the Marines in the photograph taken in September 2010 will not be disciplined because investigators determined it was a naïve mistake.

The Marines believed the SS symbol was meant to represent sniper scouts and never intended to be associated with a racist organization, said Maj. Gabrielle Chapin, a spokeswoman at Camp Pendleton, where the Marines were based
“I don’t believe that the Marines involved would have ever used any type of symbol associated the Nazi Germany military criminal organization that committed mass atrocities in WWII,” Chapin said. “It’s not within who we are as Marines.”

The Corps has used the incident as a training tool to talk to troops about what symbols are acceptable after it became aware of the photograph last November, Chapin said.

The image has since surfaced on an Internet blog, sparking widespread outrage and calls for a full investigation and punishment, including bringing those in the photograph and anyone who condoned it to court martial.

“This is a complete and total outrage,” said Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, headquartered in Albuquerque, N.M.

His organization sent a letter to the head of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday, demanding punishment for those involved.

It was the second time this year the Marine Corps has had to do damage control for actions of its troops. It’s also investigating a separate group of Marines recorded on video urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters..

“First we have Marines peeing on dead bodies and now this,” Weinstein said.
The Marines in the photograph are no longer with the unit. Chapin said she did not know if they are still in the Corps.

In the photo taken in the Afghanistan town of Sangin, the Marine Corps unit is posing with guns in front of an American flag and a large, dark blue flag with what appear to be the letters “SS” in the shape of white jagged lightning bolts.

Camp Pendleton spokesman, Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, said he did not know where the flag came from but it was likely the property of one of the Marines in the photograph.

The photograph appeared on the blog for a military weapons company called Knight’s Armament in Titusville, Fla. The company did not respond to emails or phone messages left by The Associated Press.

The SS, or Schutzstaffel, was the police and military force of the Nazi Party, which was distinct from the general army. Members pledged an oath of loyalty to Adolph Hitler.

SS units were held responsible for many war crimes and played an integral role in the extermination of millions of Jews along with gypsies and other people who were deemed undesirable. The SS was declared to be a criminal organization at the Nuremberg war crime trials.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, headquartered in Los Angeles, said he does not buy the explanation that posing with the flag was an innocent mistake and insisted the American public has a right to know what happened.

“If you look at any book on the Nazi period, this is the dreaded symbol of the SS, and to have a Marine Corps unit adopt it and put it beside the American flag when 200,000 Americans died to free the world of that dreaded symbol is just beyond the pale,” he said

What more can I say.  Either these Marines are racist, anti semetic warriors (paid for by the United States taxpayers), or they are naive beyond belief, in which case, one must question their intelligence to carry guns.  What is the Marine Corp teaching its recruits.
Of course, that is a rhetorical question.




http://www.theglobalmail.org/ feature/official -terror-for- hungarys- roma/35/




PHOTO: www.jaibhim.hu

Torch-lit marches, school segregation and talk of labour camps
has the Roma fearing for their lives after the far-right party Jobbik came to power in Gyöngyöspata.

Just an hour from Budapest, the shabby Paris of Central Europe, a small town is experiencing a sort of Year Zero. Many in the town say a new era of fascist terror and violence has begun.

Towards the eastern edges of the European Union, Gyöngyöspata is a Hungarian community of 2,500 people, where the far-right, nationalist, anti-Roma party Jobbik has taken power. The party, according to many residents, has made "Nazi"-style violence official municipal policy.

Northern Hungary's beauty masks its poverty. Gyöngyöspata is set amid small fields filled with grape vines cracked by the winter wind. Its surrounds are less fertile than the northern European landscapes. From afar, the town could be a smaller version of Cooma, New South Wales.

Eight months ago, Europe briefly noticed - and then forgot - Gyöngyöspata.

Last Easter, the Red Cross came to temporarily evacuate most of the Romani families from the town after weeks of torch-lit parades by fascist paramilitary groups. The militia were affiliated with Jobbik.

Jobbik is today Hungary's second-strongest political force, after Viktor Orbán's Fidesz Party. With 47 representatives in the 386-seat national assembly and three members of the European Parliament in Brussels, Jobbik is rapidly growing. Having won 16 per cent at the national poll two years ago, the party now has the support of between a fifth and a quarter of Hungarian voters nationwide, depending on which opinion poll you read.

The Roma are Hungary's largest minority; they arrived from the Balkans in the 14th and 15th centuries. Although a recent official census estimated they made up two per cent of the population, it's widely acknowledged that that number significantly underestimates the true population figure, which thought to be between five and ten per cent.

Romani  children comprise 20 percent of children born in Hungary today. But they leave school early - just 13 per cent complete high school - and about 80 per cent end up unemployed.

During the Second World War, 28,000 Roma lost their
lives in Hungary.

JOBBIK LEADERS say that Romani crime in the town was out of control before they staged that march. And while Hungary does not breakdown statistics by race, some residents in the town back them.

"I was afraid to walk home from the bus stop back then," said one retiree, who didn't want to be identified.

But the reaction of the paramilitaries connected with Jobbik awoke memories of the 1920s and '30s. Video from that Easter weekend shows the Romani families in the town - accompanied by a few centre-left MPs from Budapest and a couple of trendy, urban types - cowering and singing the Hungarian national anthem as the
militias march past them and on into the Romani quarter of the town.

Thereafter, everyone quickly forgot about Gyöngyöspata. Just a few weeks after Fukushima, and with the war in Libya continuing, the travails of a small Central European country just didn't register.

Yet the atmosphere in Gyöngyöspata continued to grow more charged.

Jobbik won power there in July last year. The town is now one of four Hungarian communities governed by the party.

Since it won the local election, Jobbik has been using Gyöngyöspata to trial many of its national policies.

The town's school is segregated into Roma and Hungarian classes.
The town's unemployed, mostly Roma, were among the first Hungarians put to work in a government-backed labour camp last year, where they gathered wood and planted trees under police supervision in exchange for unemployment benefits. Another,
more permanent camp now is planned for the Northern spring. And accounts from residents suggest that the Magyar Gárda, the latest incarnation of the party's paramilitary force, now has taken over the police force and the civil defence units common in rural Hungary for centuries.

The Hungarian CivilLiberties Union accuses the municipality of fuelling inter-ethnic conflict, making the situation "much worse" than most other towns in rural Hungary.

Ferenc Nagy collects scrap metal in the town. He's an ethnic Hungarian at the bottom of the pile, but he knows everyone. "I know the streets and I know the people," he tells my interpreter. "I know which streets are afraid of each other."

Nagy begins to tell the story of his town, as he sees it. "There was a normal mayor and then the Jobbik mayor. The Jobbik mayor is using the Gárda to keep him in power. They run the civil police.

There are beatings happening every

"A couple of days ago they took up a Hungarian onto the hill above the town. They beat him really badly."

While we are talking to Nagy, a handful of Roma kids pile out of their school. "My Jobbik classmate told me he'd hit me with an axe," a 13-year-old boy yells at us. He doesn't seem distressed.

Down the street from the school, the Gyöngyöspata town hall is crammed with Hungarian folk kitsch. Stout, suspicious men bustle around; we overhear that there is to be a "restructure" in the municipality.

The mayor has gone away for a few days, the receptionist says, so he can't talk to The Global Mail.

Instead the acting mayor, Gárbor Pichler, beckons us into his office.

While Pichler says he is "not personally" a Gárda member, the khaki-coloured shirt he is wearing looks very close to the paramilitaries' uniform. And the Gárda crest is on his desk.

For Pichler, the troubles in Gyöngyöspata date back to 2006, when Hungary first experienced the global financial crisis, well before the rest of the world.

The socialist government at the time introduced tough austerity measures because of a large fiscal deficit prompted by high government spending, low competitiveness and an aging population. The country applied for an IMF loan in

"There was a lot of crime then, it wasn't a local phenomenon. But ever since the 1990s, we've known that the minority commits more crime. There's even an [academic] criminological category called 'gypsy crime.'

Pichler points out that there was only one policeman patrolling the town at the start of the troubles. Today, he says, residents are no longer fearful:

"That is because we punish even the smallest crime, like the theft of three grapes."

Pichler bemoans the high unemployment rate in the town, which has been ailing since the final years of communism. His solution is to make "the unemployed poor people work clearing the streets or planting the forests" in the region surrounding the town.

He also wants them to work at a new, permanent animal-breeding farm located on the edge of the town, which is due to open in the spring. Thanks to the farm, he says, the town will be "self-sufficient. " In the long term he hopes there'll be a network of Jobbik-controlled communities independent of the Hungarian
government, "working for the common good and trading with each other."

Pichler doesn't mention that 36 of the 40 conscripted for the labour camp last year were Roma.

Back in Budapest, Márton Gyöngyösi sees Gyöngyöspata as a harbinger of where Hungary is headed.

Jobbik's deputy parliamentary leader says the Gárda and the
party working together have solved the town's crime and unemployment problems.

"It was unbearable in Gyöngyöspata. The people themselves saw that the police were incapable of solving the problem. So they called on the Magyar Gárda, which appeared and it solved the problem." Gyöngyösi says.

"The mayor resigned under the pressure because he could not deal with public order.

New elections were held; Jobbik's candidate won by a landslide," he says.

"This shows, in my interpretation, that the solution offered by Jobbik was much appreciated by the inhabitants. "

Gyöngyösi is quick to deny that Jobbik runs the Magyar Gárda. He says that the group - formed by people who were simply "worried about public security" - is not an arm of the party.

Indeed, "the only link is Mr Gárbor Vona personally, who is the president of Jobbik and president of Magyar Gárda," he says,
explaining that Vona joined the Gárda to lend it more "political

Although Gyöngyösi said that the Gárda do not carry weapons, The Global Mail has found evidence in Gyöngyöspata that appears to disprove his statements.

János Farkas is a Roma civil rights leader in Gyöngyöspata. The side of his house, in the rundown Romani quarter at the bottom of the hill, has a small black patch on it, a kind of surface burn. The top floor of his neighbour's house is completely burnt out on the inside.

The family living in it was attacked in 2006, he says. While he describes the attack as "a bit of a Nazi thing," for Farkas 2006 was a gentler time in Gyöngyöspata.

The Roma leader says that things really started to go bad when Jobbik took power. "With the old mayor, the democratic mayor, you had your disagreements, but at least you could talk things over."

Now, he says, "that Nazi," Pichler, is "terrorising" the Romani residents of the town. He shows me the official town Christmas card that Pichler sent him.

"Wishing you a very HAPPY, PEACEFUL CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR rich in success: Gyöngyöspata," the card reads.

The image printed on it shows Pichler, dressed in black, surrounded by three Gárda with hunting rifles.
Farkas says he's afraid to leave his house. The police, he asserts, have been
taken over by the Gárda.

"They want to put all of us in jail," he yells, a claim backed by a
representative of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union in Budapest a few days later:

"There are 470 Roma in Gyöngyöspata. [Of those] 420 have been fined by the police for this, that and the other. The point being is that you give them a fine, they cannot pay the fine, and then you put them in prison."

Farkas says he attempted to report several police officers for sympathising with the Gárda - and he was fined for doing so.

As we are leaving, Farkas asks for a few coins, anything. He seems

Later, one of Farkas's Budapest friends, the Australian filmmaker and civil-rights activist John Rado, tells me that, like many impoverished Romani families in Hungary today, the family "is on its last legs."

"His son is a very good friend of mine. And I can see that his life has been completely and totally destroyed," Rado said.

"One night [the son] rang me, and he could hear the plates clinking and he said, 'Oh, you've just had dinner - to your health.' An hour later, after I put the phone down, I realised that there was a tone in his voice…that he didn't have enough food for his family."

The situation for many in Gyöngyöspata's Romani community is bad now, and their future may not be any better.

Jobbik's ideas about how to deal with the unemployment and crime problems facing Hungary's Roma are electorally popular.

And the party continues to plan new solutions to the "Roma question."

Márton Gyöngyösi, Jobbik's deputy parliamentary leader, says "one solution" that the party is interested in trying out is the removal of Romani children from their families - to solve the problem of intergenerational unemployment amongst Romani

"We have been saying that taking gypsy children into boarding schools - where they are taken out of the Roma community that pulls them back and shows them a bad example - that could be a good solution," Gyöngyösi says.

That plan will probably not be implemented while Jobbik is in opposition, a Hungarian Civil Liberties Union spokeswoman tells The Global Mail.

She says that the Fidesz-led governing coalition is not likely to vote for a measure of that kind, which she calls "openly racist."

Still, some believe that Hungary may be headed for intercommunal violence, whether the forced removal of Romani children occurs or not.

Hungarian-Australia n activist John Rado says the Roma "can't stand it anymore.

"They're being attacked in very, very powerful ways," Rado says, "and they're frightened for their lives.

"There is a fear that one day they'll react en masse," he says. "And at that point, they'll be struck very hard."

Please visit the website
http://www.thegloba lmail.org/ feature/official -terror-for- hungarys- roma/35/
to see some heartwrenching pictures.
PS.  The promoters of hate are on the rise everywhere, not least of which is in the United States.  The Pacific Northwest is once again a place where right wing 'survivalists' are congregating.
The world is a scary place for those lacking in power.