“Zach, come here for a minute. I want you to read this letter for me. It came in the post today, and I don’t know who’s it for.”
After taking the letter from Mary Anne’s outstretched hand and reading the first sentence, I paused and wondered if I should read the letter out loud to her.
“Well, what does it say? Did the post make a mistake and drop it off at the wrong address?”
“No,” I stammered, trying to think of how best to describe what I had just finished reading, “I don’t think that the letter was addressed to anyone in particular. I think the postman just left the letter in your box because it was the closest on his route.”
“And, what does it say? Is it bad?”
“Yes, its bad,” I replied irritably, “very bad.”
“Well, I want to hear it anyway. Come in for a nice cup of tea and read it to me.”
After sitting down in Mary Anne’s kitchen and taking a few sips of the tea she had prepared, I cleared my throat and began to read the letter:
To the Leader of the Gypsies –
We believe that you and your mongrels are coming to Mores Lane. Be warned, you ain’t wanted. On Saturday, there will be over 200 of my friends at my party and there is enough political power, and if needed the muscle, to run you lot back to the sewers where you came from.
Mary Anne’s reaction after I had finished reading the letter was not what I had expected. Instead of disgust, there was an almost quiet expression of tolerance on her face as she took one last drag of her cigarette before squashing it calmly in her ashtray.
A few incredibly long seconds passed before either of us said anything. Mary Anne was the first to speak, staring out the window at her grandchildren playing in front of her chalet as she began.
“Zach,” she started off, taking her gaze off her grandchildren and looking at me straight in the eye, “I will be 71 in two weeks. For as long as I can remember, we Travelers have been receiving threats like the one here in the letter. While the threats might have been more violent before with fighting and all that, we have become accustomed to people wanting us gone. It is almost like we expect to get letters like this now and then.”
We talked a little more after that, but the words Mary Anne first uttered after I had read the letter stayed with me for a long time after leaving her chalet.
While it was a major achievement that the July 6th eviction was postponed until at least next spring, letters like the one I read to Mary Anne serve as a bleak reminder of how much work still needs to be accomplished in order to end the discrimination that Travelers face in England.
Most distressing of all is that there seems to be a quiet resignation among many Travelers at Dale Farm toward there relegated position in society. Statements such as, “we’re Gypsies, we can’t get no work here,” are common replies when I ask men why they have to travel abroad to find employment when they live in one of the most developed countries in the world.
There is an embarrassment of policies that the British government needs to enact in order to ensure that discriminatory practices against Travelers are removed. If officials, both local and national, continue to avoid the myriad issues the Travelers present, they will undeniably ensure that in another 71 years, Mary Anne’s grandchildren will have the same sorrowful acquiescence toward their condition as their deceased grandmother.
Posted By Zach Scott
Posted Jul 17th, 2007
July 17, 2007
Looks like the next challenge is to change society’s image of the travelers, an even more daunting task. You have done an amazing job so far and we are all so excited to see what else you can accomplish in your short time there!
August 21, 2007
I thought the travellers left the country so they could claim dole and benefits whilst working in the building trade overseas (hence working tax free). Just another viewpoint that’s all.
Judging by the new cars they drive and their supposed mansions they can’t be short of a few quid.
The prejudice runs so deep more from the real roma gyspsies who reside in Basildon!! There are many settled traveller communities in basildon who get on just fine with local basildonians.
August 22, 2007
Quoted from anonymous:
“This prejudice runs so deep. Are the Travelers dping anything to engage the local people in a constructive dialogue, and change some opinions? ”
The travellers have done nothing but steal from and attack the locals, this is why nobody wants them here. The most “constructive dialogue” the locals get is “get away from this area or I’ll f##king shoot you”
Or maybe the odd case in which an innocent young man has a van pull up next to him, and 4 or 5 men with “Irish accents” get out, smash a beer bottle into his face, then drive off.
Like the above post says, theres a Roma gypsie travellers site, and the residents of Basildon love them, they are polite, kind, considerate, they are actual travellers, not criminals who are seeking the easy life at the expense of the taxpayer.
When are people going to get it through their heads, theres no predjudice, they built illegally on land specifically set-aside for conservation of local wildlife, the locals expect the law to be upheld. Its not even like they are keeping a low-profile, they are abusive & aggressive to locals.
They suffered a fire at the site a while back, and the fire brigade, on arrival had trouble putting the flames out, why? because the fire hydrants the council had put there had been tarmacced over, by the travellers so they could build more illegal homes there, but instead of any kind of punishment, WE (the taxpayer) had to pay for them to have expensive fire extinguishers, fire training courses, etc
We are sick of it, we want our taxes used to benefit our area like they should, not handed over to people who dont want to uphold the law