outrage | 

Irish traveller says riot police storming camp in Milton Keynes is ‘act of racism’

Martin Ward protested a new anti-trespass law at Glastonbury last month

Martin Ward

Sunday World

Irish traveller Martin Ward has said that riot police storming a traveller camp in Milton Keynes is an act of racism.

Riot police descended on the encampment in Milton Keynes on Monday, just weeks after a new trespass law came into force.

Under new powers introduced by Pritti Patel, thousands of people from Traveller communities living in the UK could face penalties for parking their caravans on roadsides and “unauthorised camps” overnight if they cause “significant harm, disruption or distress.”

They can be fined up to £2,500 with police doling out jail sentences of three months for non-compliance after the bill came into force earlier this month.

While the Home Office say that they expect enforcement action will not be based on race or ethnicity, the Traveller community have expressed that they do not feel the same way.

Riot police, armed with batons, stormed the camp at Oakgrove School in Milton Keynes on Monday.

The school closed their doors to pupils on Tuesday, citing “unforeseen circumstances.”

READ MORE:Protests at Glastonbury Festival against bill that will affect the Irish travelling community

READ MORE:Travellers racially abused by gardaí and treated like ‘lowest of the low’, according to report

READ MORE:Traveller activist who lost 29 family members to suicide says government action is needed

Two men were arrested during the three-hour raid which began when police closed off a nearby road at approximately 4 pm.

Moments after police arrived on the scene, tow trucks also arrived.

It has been reported that there were two cars and two caravans impounded by the police.

However, it was reported that there was “little trouble” at the scene and most of the group moved their caravans.

“To see travellers get treated in the way they did, women and children crying men getting arrested and children saying ‘mommy they are taking our home away,” Martin told sundayworld.com.

“I am absolutely outraged and disgusted by the way the travellers were treated by Thames Valley Police force.”

“I think Thames valley police should be ashamed of themselves for using this inhuman law against travellers I would just like them to know they are not going to get away with this.”

“This is now the time every Gypsy and traveller needs to come together and be united and tackle this law head-on until we spread the word we are not having it what this is an act of racism against the Gypsy and travelling community.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Thames Valley Police said: "A notice to leave the site was issued to those in the encampment at 8.30 am on Monday morning, utilising the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, as amended by recent legislation.

"However, this was not complied with, so officers entered the site to seize vehicles and where necessary arrest anyone suspected of failing to comply with the requirement to leave."

Martin, who is also from Milton Keynes, attended Glastonbury in June with Traveller Pride to protest the new law.

Speaking to sundayworld.com from Glastonbury he said of the new legislation: “I believe they're basically stripping us of our human rights and trying to take away what we've done for hundreds and thousands of years across this nation and this country.”

“I don't think it's fair for the gypsies and travellers to be treated in such a way,” he said.

“It's not like we've been here for five years or 10 years. We've been here for decades. Our ancestors fought in the war for this country. We've got family and first cousins now from Leicester and Dublin and they're in the army over here, fighting for this country.”

Today's Headlines

More Irish News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices