On 10 March 2012, in the West Midlands, local activists met with representatives from the Traveller Solidarity Network and Europe-Roma to support European Roma.
The meeting, held at Unite the Union offices in Birmingham and supported by the National Union of Teachers, opened with a short film by the Traveller Solidarity Network that examined the aftermath of the Dale Farm evictions in Essex. It highlighted the military nature of the evictions, the use of armed police, riot police and tasers and its effect on the families and their community. The film also highlighted anti-Traveller racism and its basis in everyday prejudices and government policies. One Traveller spoke of living in ‘an open air prison, waiting to be released’.
The Traveller Solidatity Network described its work to fight discrimination and resist evictions. The group originating out of its work alongside Travelling people at Dale Farm. One speaker at the meeting made clear that Dale Farm was not over and that the criminalisation of Gypsies, Travellers and Roma continued. Another speaker provided an update on the situation at the Hillside Park site in Meriden near Solihull. He spoke of the anti-Gypsy encampment that had been established to intimidate the site and how its rhetoric had shifted from ‘green’ concerns so as not to appear racist.
Ladislav Balaz, previously the chair of the Trans-European Roma Federation, spoke about the violence that had made him and many other Czech Roma leave the Czech Republic in recent years. He outlined the rise in neo-Nazi violence against Roma and its effect on families and communities. He added that those non-Roma who worked with them or defended them had also been targeted for persecution.
Balaz said that despite this persecution, Roma people are not eligible for refugee status in the UK and that ‘Roma people all over the country face day-to-day discrimination and are prevented from accessing basic services just because of untrue racist stereotypes. The situation in Birmingham is very bad – that is why we must demonstrate here on Roma Nation Day, Easter Sunday this year.’