Lady Gypsy – Response from the National Alliance of Gypsy Traveller & Roma Women #LadyGypsy

 

During the last year I have heard racism and public displays of racism against Gypsies and Travellers passed off as ‘Banter” and now it seems that comedians some of whom find it acceptable to earn their laughs by insulting and ridiculing Gypsies and Travellers might have found themselves a passport word thanks to the sometimes controversial Ricky Gervais.

Ahead of the launch of his film life on the road which is due to be released on August 19th Ricky Gervais has a released a video of his song ‘Lady Gypsy”

[ #LadyGypsy ] While many are greeting it with delight this is not the case for UK’s Gypsies and Travellers who feel not only deeply insulted by the video and the words of the song but are also feeling a genuine fear based on bitter experience that this portrayal of a Gypsy women will impact so very badly on an already marginalized community.

The video shows Gervais’s alter-ego David Brent loosing his virginity after a chance encounter in the woods with a lady who was described as ‘a Traveller – but she was pretty – and clean”. As he is lain down in a patch of heather he questions if the woman is a hooker – she explains that she is not a hooker ‘the sex is free’ but a sprig of heather will cost him one pound.

Since tweeting Ricky Gervais to voice disgust a number of his Twitter followers have taken the time to contact me to kindly explain the niceties of satire, and have questioned my right to be insulted. It is possible they assume that as a Romany Gypsy woman I might not understand -but please rest assured that I really do understand satire,…and I’m still insulted.

Ricky Gervias himself responded to me stating,

“ You clearly haven’t seen the office or the new movie yet. Relax. He accidentally insults everyone” –

I can’t say that really made me feel a whole lot better.

While I admire Ricky Gervais stance on animal rights – I find it difficult to reconcile the work of a very clearly sensitive and caring individual when it comes to animal rights with the somewhat reckless portrayal of a Gypsy woman that will be seen by so many.

It takes very little research to become aware of the marginalization of Gypsy and Traveller people. Ricky Gervias cannot fail to know that our people are subjected to so much abuse; even if he himself could claim ignorance it would be difficult to accept that his advisers were also not aware.

The inclusion of the words ‘ she was pretty – and clean” clearly demonstrate that Gervais is indeed fully aware of the ‘dirty Gypsy’ stereotyping and is quite happy to quite literally cash in on that.

Many of Gervias Twitter followers have explained to me painstakingly that it is not Gervias himself that says these things – but Brent – because this is “satire” and that I am missing the point, in my apparent ignorance I would suggest that it is Gervias that is missing the point. Ricky Gervais uses his name and his access to a very large public platform to promote his stance on animal rights – he is absolutely aware of his ability to use that platform in a positive way – but with startling disregard he allows this same platform to be used in such a negative way with the release of this video and its inclusion in his new film.

Satire most certainly has its place in the Arts, it can and does play a very entertaining and often important role, most people have enjoyed political satire. I am not for one moment wanting to deny this, but by its very nature it can be a dangerous tool if used towards a particular group of people without discretion.

But if we accept the ‘satire’ argument lets take a moment or two to examine this;

There may well be those that view it with enlightened eyes and see the meaning within the satirical portrayal, although then we have to consider the lack of any yardstick or stabilizing element, There is no portrayal of the Gypsy lady or any other Gypsy within that shows the Brent character as getting anything wrong – Brent meets a pretty and clean Gypsy in the woods and she has sex with him. One of Gervais Twitter followers compared this video to the sitcom Rising Damp that was screened in the 1970’s. This outlines my argument quite well because while it was satirical – Rigsby’s suspicion of his black tenant Philip is balanced because Philip is intelligent and well spoken and well mannered. Till Death us do part showed the enormously racist Alf Garnet being viewed as a figure of contempt and ridicule by his own family – I am using these references as these are ones that have been thrown at me in the last few days – there are many more of course some more subtle – but there is always that element of balance when it comes to tackling racism in satire that is aimed at a wide audience.

This video will be seen by a wide audience and the probable majority will not be those clever enlightened and knowing folks who enjoy it’s supposedly underlying message. The audience will include that element in society that spread hatred against Gypsies and Travellers that frequent the online comments forums of local papers and add their racist venom beneath unbalanced newspaper articles. It will include those that suggest petrol bombing Gypsies and Travellers, shooting them on sight; it will include politicians that can casually state that Gypsies and Travellers should be executed. It will leave our young women vulnerable to sexual assault and verbal abuse.

Gypsies and Traveller have been identified as those who receive the most racial abuse on Twitter and nine out of Ten Gypsy and Traveller children report having suffered racial abuse and bullying. Children have suffered sever beating with one child being beaten to death – it simply does not get worse than that.

This Ricky Gervais is the reality, it might not be a reality that you have ever personally faced – but we have no choice but to face it – every single day.

So here it is – a new passport word to absolve inappropriate comedy sketches that racially deemed Gypsies and Travellers ‘Satire ‘ and if we are insulted if we object we will be classed as being unable to understand it’s complexities.

I would like to close with a quotation from David Levithan who wisely said;

 “If smart people are parodying it, that’s a sure sign that some less smart people are believing it’

And THAT Mr Gervais is why we are so offended.

Copyright NAGTRW 2016

www.nagtrw.co.uk

media@nagtrw.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ministry of Defence Investigate ‘derogatory and racist’ Anti Gypsy Hate Speech by Army Personnel Following Complaint by NAGTRW – warning this post contains offensive content #antigypsyism

NAGTRW can confirm that the ministry of Defence has launched an investigation into what it described as ‘derogatory and racist’ comments that were posted on an ‘unofficial’ Army website.

NAGTRW had made a formal complaint about the commentary to Chief of General Staff General Sir Nick Carter on 4th April 2016. NAGTRW identified numerous highly offensive comments posted over a prolonged period of time. One comment read;

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A letter from the Army Secretariat stated that the Chief of General Staff ‘shares your abhorrence at the hateful and upsetting commentary’, but goes on to explain that as the posts are contained on an external site they have no editorial control over it. The letter goes on to say – “nonetheless, as we are aware the site is used by both serving and former serving members, we will investigate whether any of the comments made can be linked to serving members and anybody still in service will be investigated. Appropriate action will be taken if they are deemed to have failed the service test, which measures whether the actions or behaviour of an individual have adversely impacted on the efficiency or operational effectiveness of the Army, as laid out in The Values and Standards of the British Army”

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Brigadier John Donnelly, Head Army Personnel Support will write to the website asking them to take down the offensive content and Chief of General Staff went on to say “we would encourage reporting of any items which are deemed to be inciting racial hatred to the civilian police”

NAGTRW had urged the MOD to investigate this matter as it was felt that they were in a better position to identify and deal with those responsible.

NAGTRW are now in the process of drafting a report to the police

 

 

NAGTRW COMPLAIN TO IPCC AFTER HUMBERSIDE POLICE DISCRIMINATE AGAINST TRAVELLERS

NAGTRW have made a complaint to the IPCC after Humberside Police have conducted themselves in a manner that;

  1. Demonstrates discrimination toward the Gypsy /Traveller Community
  2. Have conducted themselves in manner that in breach of their Public Sector Duties under the Equality Act 2010

On 2nd April 2016 a group of Gypsy/Travellers were parked up on Central Park in Scunthorpe, and this was reported in the Scunthorpe Telegraph as a ‘1pm update’ on 2nd April 2016, shortly after this Humberside Police sent out a ‘Warning” via the the Scunthorpe

Telegraph – headlined as ‘WARNING: Bogus traders preying on vulnerable & Elderly, Police warn’
Although the Gypsy/Traveller families were not mentioned – it would have been reasonable to assume that the settled community might perceive that this was a reference to those families. Indeed commentary on the Scunthorpe Telegraph Facebook page indicated that this was how this ‘warning’ was perceived.

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As a result of this ‘warning’ NAGTRW by way of a FOI request to Humberside Police enquired about in instances of ‘Bogus Traders’ in the area.

The response from Humberside stated that having searched all call records for the period specified there were NO calls that reported ‘bogus traders’
In response to NAGTRWs question about the same frame of time last year [2015] – there had been a total of 4 reports of bogus traders –

Humberside Police concluded that there had in fact been a fall in such incidents between 2015 and 2016.
As there were clearly no calls in relation to bogus traders on or just preceding 2nd April 2016 – then there were clearly no genuine grounds to need to ‘warn’ the public via the media of anything at all.
This ‘warning’ sent out to coincide with the arrival of Gypsy/Traveller families in unacceptable and served only to cause alarm and and concern by the settled community towards the Gypsy/Traveller families visiting the area.
This ‘warning’ will also have served to prevent families from earning a living.
This cannot be seen to be an error, badly timed or accidental – the fact is that there were NO reports of bogus traders at all
We require a full and transparent investigation
We wish this untruthful ‘warning’ by Humberside Police to be regarded as a ‘Hate Incident”
NAGTRW demand a full and public apology

Conservative Party Disciplinary Committee Will Look At NAGTRW Complaint Re PCC Candidate

It has been confirmed that following a complaint by NAGTRW in regard to comments including the use of the word ‘Pikey’ by Tory PCC Candidate Jason Ablewhite – that the complaint has been passed to the Party’s disciplinary Committee for consideration.

The complaint sent today to Conservative Party Chairman Lord Feldman of Elstree read as follows;

Dear Lord Feldman,

 Re Conservative PCC Candidate for Cambridge Jason Ablewhite.

We are writing to you in relation to the conduct of the above named Conservative candidate for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner.

During 2010 this man made comment of Facebook together with other Conservative local Councillors – Tom Sanderson, & Ryan Fuller.

While engaging in what Councillor Ablewhite has since called ‘banter’. The three men were making commentary about a couple that appeared in a picture wearing ‘high viz vests’. Councillor Sanderson says ;

‘ Someone give these two some tarmac to lay’

To which Councillor Ablewhite replies –

“Pikey’s caught on camera!!”

Ryan Fuller who we understand is also a Conservative Councillor for Huntingdon District Council adds to the commentary;

“Tarmac your drive Guv? All in aid of the Christmas lights of course”

The three then go on to make inappropriate comment about Spanish Refugee’s

Mr Ablewhite is quoted by local press to have said –

“My group of district councillors, we have a bit of banter with each other,” said Cllr Ablewhite.

“I apologise if it caused any offence, but it was private at the time.

“If it’s just private friends having a laugh, it’s no different to if you’re just down the pub doing the same.”

National Alliance of Gypsy Traveller & Roma Women, feel that this commentary is not acceptable when it comes from those involved in public life, we do not feel that the time elapsed since these comments were made is relevant.

It should be noted that this was posted on Facebook, and the internet is very much a public space, regardless of whether or not this group had expectations that these comments would become widely known is also not relevant as Mr Ablewhite was posting as Councillor Ablewhite, and as such he is speaking in his role of a Conservative Local Councillor.

From his comments to local press it is abundantly clear that Mr Ablewhite fails to recognise why this is unacceptable, and it’s worrying indeed some 6 years on he draws comparison and justifies his comments as ‘no different if you’re just down the pub doing the same’

We would urge the Conservative party to exercise the same outrage to Mr Ablewhite’s comments as that has recently been demonstrated in regard to those made by Mr Livingston’s.

It is impossible in light of Mr Ablewhite’s comments to see how a person holding these views and feeling it perfectly alright to express them and use a word like ‘Pikey” to possibly hold any public office let alone that of Police and Crime Commissioner.

Please look to your in house Equalities Policies and also UK & EU Legislation and suspend Mr Ablewhite as a candidate for PCC.

We would like to add that like the Jewish community Gypsies were also victims of the Holocaust, tens of thousands were murdered, and yet we have no representation on UK’s Holocaust Commission, despite repeated request for reasons outlining why this is the case.

We would be grateful for a timely response to this request.

National Alliance of Gypsy Traveller & Roma Women

www.nagtrw.co.uk

 

 

 

 

NAGTRW TO CALL FOR SUSPENSION OF TORY POLICE & CRIME COMMISSIONER CANDIDATE

National Alliance of Gypsy Traveller & Roma Women are calling on the Chairman of the Conservative Party Lord Feldman of Elstree to suspend Tory PCC candidate Jason Ablewhite after inappropriate comments made of Facebook regarding Gypsies and Traveller’s comes to light

NAGTRW has learned that the Tory Candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner and Executive leader of Huntingdon District Council had in that past made comments on Face book in which he made reference to people [apparently known to him] depicted in a photograph as “Pikey’s caught on camera !!” this was in response to another poster Tom Sanderson also believed to be a Tory  Councillor  with Huntingdon District Council,making the comment ‘ Someone give these two some tarmac to lay’

 

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Mr Ablewhite has passed the comments off as ‘ banter’ and says he apologises for any offence caused, telling the Cambridge News that it was ‘private at the time’ – “If its just private friends having a laugh, if it’s no different to if you’re just down the pub doing the same’ The comments were made in 2010, and Mr Ablewhite has pointed out that he was not leader of the Council at that time.

NAGTRW do not find Mr Ablewhite comments to be acceptable on any level and if anything his comments to the Cambridge News makes it very clear that, worryingly, he fails to see any wrong doing in using highly offensive racial terminology on a a Facebook page while posting as ‘ Councillor Jason Ablewhite’

The fact that a person that can make these comments in a public space [internet] and claims not feel it is in appropriate is deeply concerning when there is a possibility that the same person could hold a post as important as that of Police and Crime Commissioner.

NAGTRW would ask the Conservative Party to examine their Equalities Policies and to also consider the rights of Gypsies and Travellers not to be subjected to racial insults. It does not matter that the people in the photograph are not Gypsy or Traveller people, it is offensive that in order to take a rise from them he resorted to such terminology.

Mr Ablewhite can not be put forward as a responsible or appropriate candidate since these comments have come to light. If Mr Ablewhite were to make reference to any other ethnic group for similar purposes then he would certainly be held accountable and it would be an expectation of that accountability that he would be suspended – and the Gypsy and Traveller community have every right to expect the same.

In recent days much has been made of the Ken Livingston comments – and the word racist has been freely used by Tories – so let’s see what they are prepared to do when it’s one of their own.

Racism has cost Gypsy people the same horrendous fate as it has cost the Jewish community – we too were murdered in our tens on thousands in the Holocaust – yet the Tory Government REFUSE to appoint a Gypsy /Roma person to the UK Holocaust commission, so it will be interesting to see how they deal with Mr Ablewhite’s comments.

 

 

 

 

The Forgotten Voices Conference Budapest April 2016

FogVoi Poster

On April 6-7 2016 NAGTRW attended The Forgotten Voices Conference that was held at the Romanian Parliament in Budapest

The primary goal of this conference was to bring together various stakeholders to draw a parallel between the past and the present situation and explore how the causes of that tragedy are reflected in the discrimination, marginalization and persecution of the Roma, Gypsies & Travellers today. Furthermore There will be  a document produced which will serve as a basis for advocating for the recognition of the Roma genocide and of anti-Gypsyism as a specific form of discrimination at the European level.

 

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Two Roma Holocaust survivors and companion walk through the Parliament building to tell us their story

There were delegates from all over Europe who came together for this conference, we heard not only of the horrors of the Holocaust and the devastation it caused our people, but of the ongoing discrimination and hate crime our peoples are subjected to.

Fog Voice Shay
NAGTRW’s Shay Clipson attended the conference

A copy of the finished document will be published when available