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Council makes pledge to combat racial prejudice

Posted onPosted on 19th Mar

COMBATING anti-Semitism and the persecution of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers was the focus of a motion passed by Newark and Sherwood District Council.

The pledge follows a national increase of hate crime against Jews and is a response to issues of discrimination and prejudice toward Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.

The council has formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Anti-Semitism as a clear message that anti-Semitic behaviour will not be tolerated.

In adopting the definition, the council is demonstrating its commitment to engaging with the experiences of Jewish communities and supporting them against the challenges they face.

The council also recognises that the Gypsy and Traveller community has also endured a history of genocide, oppression, persecution, forced adoption and discrimination and is wrongly viewed as being the ‘last acceptable racism’. Nine out of 10 Gypsy children have suffered racial abuse, and two-thirds of children from Gypsy/Traveller communities have also been bullied or physically abused.

In line with its opposition to all forms of hate crime and prejudice, the council has also adopted the Alliance Against Anti-Gypsyism’s (AAAG) definition of anti-Gypsyism.

As part of marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, council leader David Lloyd and the council’s Labour group leader, Paul Peacock, joined a group of Travellers, Roma and Gypsies, from Newark, at the National Holocaust Centre and Museum in Laxton, which commemorates the victims of racism, discrimination and genocide.

The council, which opposes all forms of hate crime and prejudice, is looking at how best to raise awareness of these definitions and applying them throughout its services and operations.

Coun Lloyd said: “We have policies and procedures to deal with prejudice and discrimination but by adopting these definitions we recognise that we need to specifically challenge certain lingering perceptions that are frankly racist and more work is needed to tackle these issues.

“We need to stub out all forms of harassment, bias, violence and prejudice and the motion regarding Gypsies and Travellers is particularly pertinent in our own locality.”

Coun Peacock said: “By supporting this motion the council is showing real leadership, the message is clear — the council will not tolerate prejudice in any form.”

Charlotte Smith, who is Roma and lives in Newark and Sherwood, added: “In just my life I have experienced enough hate crime and racial prejudice to write a book.

“I have had people shouting abuse at my children and telling them they should be burned alive, and we have to suffer racist comments that are not tackled and social media pages which allow a torrent of abuse against Travellers, Roma and Gypsies.

“I am so pleased that Newark and Sherwood District Council has decided to pledge a commitment to challenge this.”

Her life-long friend and neighbour, Gemma Lamb, said: “I could go on forever about the negativity towards me and my family going back generations.

“Death threats, rocks thrown, not being able to eat in certain restaurants because they think we may be reckless and social media abuse that is allowed against Gypsies.

“There is good and bad in all of society, but nobody seems to think there is any good in Gypsies. I’m happy to hear that the district council has made a pledge to tackle this issue. We haven’t come very far from the Holocaust sadly.”

Last year, the Community Security Trust’s national report on anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of 2019 showed the highest total on record over a six-month period, and an increase of 10 per cent on the same period in 2018, with more than 100 incidents per month for the third year running. Similarly, the annual figures for 2018 showed the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents on record.

The IHRA definition of anti-semitism reads: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Alliance Against Anti-Gypsyism’s (AAAG) definition: “Anti-Gypsyism is an historically constructed, persistent complex of customary racism against social groups identified under the stigma ‘Gypsy’ or other related terms, and incorporates: a homogenizing and essentialising perception and description of these groups; the attribution of specific characteristics to them; and discriminating social structures and violent practices that emerge against that background, which have a degrading and ostracising effect and which reproduce structural disadvantages.”