Solidarity with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in the UK.

We are delighted at the strong submission made by Board of Deputies of British Jews’ to the Government’s consultation on unauthorised encampments, to show solidarity with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in the UK as reported in its Community Briefing of 20 Feb 2020

In particular we welcome the conclusion of its submission : “[W]e urge the Government to heed the calls of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, as well as police, who are urging a switch from an enforcement approach, to a provision approach.”

In this context we wonder how the Board squares its principled position with its enthusiastic support for John Mann, better known now as the “Antisemitism Czar”.

For it is the same John Mann who, when he was MP for Bassetlaw, published a booklet in 2016 entitled The Bassetlaw anti-social behaviour handbook: your guide to the law, still available online. This led to Mann being interviewed by the police about what he had written about travellers and the description of this investigation as “a hate incident”.

Here is the Board of Deputies report in its 20 February 2020 Community Briefing

The Board of Deputies has sent a submission to the Government’s consultation on unauthorised encampments to show solidarity with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in the UK.

Board of Deputies Vice President Edwin Shuker said: “The Government is right to seek a solution to the problem of unauthorised encampments. However, any proposals must be very careful in terms of their potential impact on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, which are already some of the most marginalised and persecuted in the UK.  It is the lack of authorised sites which is the root of the problem.”

Human rights organisation René Cassin shares the Board of Deputies’ concerns.

René Cassin Director Mia Hasenson-Gross said: “René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights,  has listened to widespread concerns raised within Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities regarding the Government’s consultation (on “strengthening police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments”) and shares the Board of Deputies’ concerns about the ways in which the proposed legislation could impact GRT families and communities, who already face marginalisation and persecution.”

The Board of Deputies has held various meetings and roundtable with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller organisations in an effort to build bridges between these communities and British Jews.

A Zelo Street report was published  21 April 2018, extracts of which are reposted here, provides the context (as indeed does a Skwawkbox artilcle published a year later) for concern about John Mann.

John Mann MP – Race Hate Shame

The litany of unfortunate Twitter interventions from Bassetlaw’s Labour MP John Mann last week, where he made a number of highly creative accusations against anyone querying the content of his contribution to the Commons debate on anti-Semitism, has served only to damage that cause. It has also prompted the re-evaluation of Mann’s own back catalogue on the issue of rate hate, and one incident in particular.

In 2016, the Travellers Times reported thatA three-way parliamentary group seminar planned to discuss racism against Gypsies and Travellers has dramatically collapsed after the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Anti-Semitism pulled out after details of an ‘offensive’ legal advice booklet emerged – produced and distributed by John Mann MP, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw, Notts, and the Chair of the Anti-Semitism APPG”.

So what was the problem? “In the section on ‘Travellers’, which mainly deals with the civil offence of trespass, there is a big, bold strapline saying ‘the Police have powers to remove any gypsies and travellers’ (sic).” No context, as the screen shot shows. Worse, “A legal expert in Traveller law and police powers around trespass, contacted by The Travellers’ Times, has described the legal advice in the section on Travellers as ‘wrong.’

Three days after the Travellers’ Times article was published, Mann emailed a Traveller family who lived in his constituency, accusing them of makinga series of defamatory comments” about him (some things never change). This may have been not unconnected to the fact that Nottinghamshire Police had received a complaint about Mann’s legal advice booklet which resulted in his being interviewed by them.

The officers who interviewed Mann offered “advice … concerning the section entitled ‘Travellers’”, and that it should “not single out a group of people as responsible for the problem”. Mann’s defence was that the booklet was no longer in print, but as can be seen from the screen shot, the publication is available online, and can be located with no more than a minutes’ searching. The Police investigation described a “hate incident”.

Fortunately for Mann, the mainstream press failed to pick up on his little local difficulty, or on the discomfort that any campaigner against anti-Semitism must have felt at seeing that booklet, which just happened to have his name as the sole author. Indeed, as the Trevellers’ Times pointed out, “During the Second World War, the Nazis murdered six million Jews and an estimated half a million to one million Roma Gypsies”.

There was more: “Many Jewish groups and individuals support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller rights. Jews recently joined with the Gypsy Council at the Holocaust Memorial Gardens in Hyde Park on August 2nd this year to remember Roma, Sinti and Gypsy victims of the Nazi Holocaust”. One Labour MP has put it bluntly: “If Labour cannot combat racism then we are nothing”. The name of that MP was John Mann.



Comments (2)

  • JanP says:

    Well, perhaps some messages about the human right to equal opportunities are getting through to the BOD. I hope it is not just an attempt at getting a feel good news quote. There has already been an attempt by some Jewish organisations to persuade Gypsies and Travellers that they are a lost tribe. But DNA evidence firmly shows they are not, they are from India.
    Its a shame that Palestinian human rights are still being ignored, if not thrashed, by the state of Israel.

  • JanP says:

    There are still a number of local Labour Councillors who actually use the denial of sites and stopping places for Gypsies and Travellers in their campaign literature to gain votes. The most recent one I’ve seen is from Basildon.

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