The travelling community has received a lot of media attention over the last 18 months.
The Brighton and Hove Green Party have had to take various forms of action to deal with the controversial subject since their arrival into office in May.
Brighton and Hove locals have taken a great deal of interest in the insurgence of the travelling community settling on public parks, and have actively protested against one of these parks being made a ‘permanent home’ for the travellers. Hundreds gathered on Happy Valley park early this month, in Woodingdean, in protest to the site becoming a permanent residence for travellers.
The issue has caused continual problems as the travelling community have settled in locations and subsequently faced eviction by the authorities on several occasions. The problem is simply shifted from area to area rather than being resolved.
The local council acknowledges that the only conceivable solution is to locate a permanent area for the travellers, but allocating an area big enough has also caused much contention amongst the public.
Rather than finding them a permanent place of residence, it is becoming apparent that much of the public simply want the travellers evicted.
Many locals have taken drastic action against the settlers. In Withdean park a ditch has been dug to prevent vehicles from gaining unauthorised access; an action aimed at forcibly making travellers relocate to another park. A student at the University of Sussex shared the same view as the council, which is that a permanent place of residence, or a site, should be found for the travellers.
He expressed the view however, that the travellers should remain in their allotted sites. He asserted that travelling and setting up caravans on public parks is illegal and like all citizens, travellers have to abide by the law, and are not above it. Katie, a second-year student said: “There’s a disturbing degree of underlying prejudice shown towards the travellers. People seem to think it’s acceptable to express views against them that would be considered racist if directed at another ethnic minority.”
Recently, a public reminder was issued at a council meeting, for police, residents and elected members, to watch their language when discussing travellers.
Tony Janio, a local politician, stormed out of the meeting as a result. He has asked for an apology and voiced his frustration at not feeling at liberty to discuss the topic openly. The police have also reported a high level of investigations into abusive and racist marks, as well as a number of death threats which the travelling community has received. In one of these threatening calls to the Council, a resident advocated ‘ethnic cleansing’.
Katie asserted: “The stigma that is attached to the travelling community is one that needs to be dispelled before any plan to relocate travellers can come to fruition.”