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'anti-nomadic law' Irish travellers to hold major rally in London city centre against new Police Bill

The Police Bill is the single biggest threat to the traditional way of life of Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers in our lifetime," says Sherrie Smith.

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Photo: Drive To Surivive Facebook page

Photo: Drive To Surivive Facebook page

Photo: Drive To Surivive Facebook page

Irish Travellers alongside gypsies and Roma are set to hold a major demonstration in London to protest next week to protest again a new 'anti-nomadic' law.

The protest will be held in Parliament Square next Wednesday, July 7, in a major demonstration against the UK’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Grassroots campaigners taking part in the Drive To Survive campaign are kicking-off their ‘Summer of Discontent’ against Home Secretary Priti Patel’s Bill with the peaceful protest.

The campaign against the Bill claims that it endangers the right to protest, and threatens to outlaw traditional (Gypsy, Roma, Travellers) GRT nomadism.

Sherrie Smith said: “The Police Bill is the single biggest threat to the traditional way of life of Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers in our lifetime.

"If passed it will entirely eradicate nomadic life in the UK, give police the power to seize Gypsy and Traveller homes, fine Gypsies and Travellers up to £2,500 and imprison those needing to follow a nomadic way of life because of a lack of safe, legal stopping places.

“We will not stand for our culture being targeted in this way.”

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Photo: Drive To Surivive Facebook page

Photo: Drive To Surivive Facebook page

Photo: Drive To Surivive Facebook page

Irish Traveller activist Chris McDonagh said: “We have been part of society for generations and for somebody to decide we no longer fit is absolutely disgraceful.

“We all live in a country that is supposedly proud of its acceptance and equality for all ethnicities and minorities, but we now see this is a lie.”

Activists from Friends of the Earth, Liberty, Stand Up to Racism and Amnesty International will also express solidarity with the Drive to Survive movement.

From Parliament Square, the campaign will head to Appleby Fair, where GRT people have met annually for over 500 years at the world’s largest Gypsy horse fair.

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Roma activist Mattey Mitchell said a stage and PA system will be set up to educate the community about the threat coming its way.

“One of Europe’s largest projectors will project films about the Bill onto the Cumbrian mountains next to the fair,” he added.

The Home Office said the new offence and amendments to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 will apply to anyone trespassing in the conditions specified, with enforcement decisions not made on the basis of ethnicity or race.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The vast majority of travellers are law abiding, and we recognise their right to follow a nomadic way of life in line with their cultural heritage.

“Unauthorised encampments reflect badly on the law-abiding Traveller community – they can cause misery to those who live nearby, with communities impacted by problems such as being unable to access or use their land, and excessive noise and littering.

“It’s therefore right we are giving the police the powers they need to address this issue and the government will continue its work to provide more authorised sites for Travellers to reside on.”

However, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has published a report raising concerns about the government's Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, namely that it would curtail an individual's right to protest.

These changes would increase restrictions on peaceful protests "in a way that we believe is inconsistent with our rights", the committee says.

It also calls for the proposed rule allowing the police to put conditions on protests based on how noisy they are to be removed from the legislation, stating it is neither "necessary nor proportionate".

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