When I read the Traveller Solidarity Network’s post on UK Uncut http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/guest-post about Tony Balls, leader of Basildon council who oversaw the brutal eviction of Travellers from their homes last October, being nominated for ‘Leader of the Year’ award I genuinely thought it was a joke. It took a fair while for me to believe that this was actually for real, and I’m still feeling rather perplexed about the whole affair. The end of the blog called on us not to allow them to rewrite history in this way. That was a powerful statement, combined with memories of that shameful day in October, that saw me cycle out furiously through the streets on London to join the protest and alternative ceremony at Westminster City Hall.
A sound system blasted music and around 50 of us stood with banners and placards, danced and leafleted passers-by. Our presence there delegitimized proceedings inside and created a spectacle that passers-by were curious about. As I leafleted I had some nice conversations with people about Balls’ ludicrous nomination and what he had done to Dale Farm. One woman was shocked and said ‘I hope he doesn’t win it’ and I had a good conversation with the Sainsbury’s security guard who told me how wrong and unfair it was that they had been evicted.
A ceremony proceeded outside for the Community Wrecker of the Year award which Balls was unable to collect in person, but which Anne, a long term supporter of the Dale Farm community, accepted on his behalf. It was fortunate that he won this award, as he didn’t win the leadership award in the end – somewhat reassuring my faith in humanity.
I left at 8.30, I didn’t reckon that he would dare to exit via the front. But it turns out that he did have the chutzpah. However, he was met with angry protestors and was forced to take the back exit. http://travellersolidarity.org/2012/02/28/shame-faced-tony-ball-forced-to-flee-council-awards-by-angry-protesters/
A substantive footnote has been added to history – describing how people will not tolerate racism, forced evictions, and the destruction of communities.
The Traveller Solidarity Network are running talks all across the country over the next couple of months – see here for more details http://travellersolidarity.org/traveller-solidarity-tour/