On Saturday, a wide range of campaign and direct action groups supported the Gypsy Traveller League under the banner #NotMyBill, as they handed a letter in to Downing Street calling for an end to discrimination.
The recently passed Public Order Act is the latest of several rounds of legislation which widen the suppression of marginalised groups.
New laws give police greater powers over Traveller encampments, but at the same time common land is fast disappearing into private hands with no provision for Gypsy and Traveller culture and lifestyle. Suicide rates in the community are rocketing.
Meanwhile, draconian new legislation last year targeted refugees and asylum seekers, groups which have long been demonised by the billionaire-owned press. More recently, climate activists are described as ‘zealots’ and ‘mobs’, leading a few weeks ago to the passing of anti-protest legislation, which was almost immediately used by the police against completely peaceful protesters at the Coronation.
The result though is a pushback from new networks of solidarity, and on Saturday we saw Black Lives Matter pledging support for the Gypsy and Traveller community alongside disabled activists, republicans, animal rights and climate protesters, Just Stop Oil, fuel poverty campaigners, and many others, all pledging to ‘Unite To Defy’ and fight back against this authoritarian and anti-democratic power grab.
Graham Smith, the CEO of Republic, was arrested at the Coronation by officers from the Metropolitan Police, despite weeks of negotiation and agreement over his plans to protest peacefully. He called for their abolishment and replacement by Community Policing outside of government control, and he warned that repression of protest would only force people to take other actions, effectively radicalising campaigners.
This is what we’re seeing in other countries.
After the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a nationwide ban on climate group Letze Generation (under Section 129 of the Criminal Code), the Bavarian LKA police force raided homes across Germany, the website was taken down, and supporters were warned that donating to a criminal organisation was a serious offence.
But in an enormous backfire of public support, the group quickly re-instated their website, received around half a million Euros in donations over the next few days, and some ‘mainstream’ media outlets actually publicised upcoming slow march protests.
Now that in the UK a wider demographic are beginning to experience the sort of repression which Gypsy and Traveller communities, asylum seekers, Black and brown people and those with disabilities have suffered for years, Saturday’s event could be the start of new relationships and solidarity, and a stronger movement to resist.
Supporters of the event included the following: