In times of economic turmoil, folks in power often seek to redirect the rage rightly aimed at them onto the most marginal groups in society, a process we’re witnessing today in Europe.
Two stories reveal the strategy the strategy at work.
British courts crack down on “rioters”
First, from a Guardian article by Paul Lewis, James Ball, and Matthew Taylor posted today reporting on their new project to investigate prosecutions resulting from the August riots:
Rioters sentenced in crown courts have received jail terms that are much more severe than usual, replicating the punitive response by magistrates, the Guardian can reveal.
An exclusive analysis of crown court cases against those convicted of involvement in last month’s riots shows some sentences are nearly three times the average jail terms handed down for the same offences.
The data, part of a Guardian database covering more than 70% of the defendants processed through English courts for offences linked to the disorder, indicates that crown court judges have been even more willing to treat involvement in the riots as an aggravating factor than their counterparts in magistrates courts.
The riots arose spontaneously from the rage of an increasingly marginalized and growing underclass, provoked into violence by the actions of police during a protest march held to call attention to the death of a young man at the hands of police.
A renewed crackdown on wanderers
Next, and even more disturbing, a BBC report on the court-ordered eviction of a Traveler’s camp, a move which has drawn fire from the United Nations and represents the latest effort in a continent-wide effort aimed at further marginalizing Europe’s wandering peoples:
The eviction of travellers from the UK’s largest illegal site will take place during the week commencing 19 September, it has been confirmed.
About 400 people face eviction from Dale Farm, at Crays Hill, Essex.
Basildon Council said electricity to the site would be cut off but water would be left running until it had been cleared.
Travellers who need electricity for “specific health and welfare reasons” should contact the council, it said.
Families are to be evicted from 400 illegal pitches, built without planning permission.
The deadline for them to leave passed last Wednesday.
A United Nations committee has called on the government to suspend the eviction but the council said it would press ahead.
It has sent letters to travellers, telling them enforcement notices have not been complied with and encouraging them to make homelessness applications urgently.
In a statement, Tony Ball, leader of the Conservative-run council, expressed his regret that the site clearance would have to go ahead.
On Friday the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said the eviction would disproportionately affect family life and create hardship.
It called on the government to suspend it “until culturally appropriate accommodation is identified and provided”.
But the Department for Communities and Local Government said the council was within its rights to press ahead with the eviction.
As we’ve noted before, political leaders in France, Italy, and elsewhere in Europe have been waging a relentless ethnic cleansing campaign aimed at ridding their countries of Roma, Sinti, and Travellers, cultures sometimes groupd together under the overall label of Gypsy.
While the Sinti and Roma can trace their origins to India, a claim backed by genetic evidence, many of Britain’s Travellers appear to have their origins in Ireland.
Jews, “gypsies,” and Travellers were targeted for extermination by the Nazis, all seen as carriers of “bad blood” that threatened the survival of the “Aryan.”
Though measures targeting European Jews vanished after the Second World War, laws discriminating against Romani, Sinti, and Travellers have been growing in recent years.
Here’s a brief clip from EU Observer featuring Robert Kushen, director of the European Roma Rights Center:
And here’s an excerpt from a report from the center on recent ethnic cleansing operations elsewhere in Europe this summer:
The Sarkozy Government’s infamous campaign to evict and deport Roma from France, which rose to prominence one year ago, is continuing aggressively. In Marseille, between June and August 2011 alone, a minimum of 500 Roma have been evicted from camps. A large-scale eviction of around 150 people happened just this morning. In a similar vein, Roma in Italy are constantly victimised by ongoing and repeated evictions. The ERRC and its partner organisations sent letters to French and Italian authorities expressing concern about the continuing forced evictions of Romani communities in Rome and Marseille.
According to Medecins du Monde, between June and August 2011 alone a minimum of 500 Roma have been evicted from camps in Marseille. Some of them were subjected to violence from private actors that was not investigated or punished, and others were subjected to police abuse. Roma were made homeless and then scattered around Marseille, becoming yet more vulnerable to violent attacks and police harassment. The ERRC also documented several alarming incidents of police violence which have not been properly investigated or punished. French authorities are violating a number of their obligations under international law, including the right to adequate housing and protection from forced eviction, the right to private and family life and freedom from inhuman and/or degrading treatment and discrimination.
In Italy, between March and May 2011, 154 targeted evictions took place in Rome affecting 1,800 Roma. The ERRC and its partner, Association 21 Iuglio, underlined that these evictions violate international laws and standards regulating forced evictions by which Italy is bound. Documentation by the two organisations reveals that Rome authorities do not provide prior notice in advance of the eviction, do not offer proper alternative accommodation and destroy personal property during the evictions.
And for more on Britain’s Travellers, see here.
Finally, to place the persecution in context, pay a visit to this web site.