Sunday 26th June - Launch of Roma Gypsy campaign
Bright colours, bold T-shirts, in the beaming sun, a human chain of activists, volunteers and Restless Beings team members formed and were ready to set out on 'The Roaming Trail' - a 6 mile trek across London to raise awareness and education of the inequality fo rights and the misperceptions of the Roma Gypsy community living here in the UK.
Starting at Bloomsbury, near Russel Square, The Community Channel camera crew filmed and interviewed as the 25-person strong trail walked, skipped, chanted and sang for Roma Gypsy rights. Passers by, stopped and watched the spectacle as people came out of shops and hotels to see what was happening or to support the cause. Chefs came out from a hotel and happened to be Roma Gypsies and were delighted with the campaign, joining in with the chants, of 'We want, we want, equal rights, equal rights!'.
Compelled to join
As the campaign swept past Holborn and Covent Garden, another large bunch of supporters joined the trail. They were also on the streets raising awareness for Human Rights and Palestinian Rights. They were so compelled by the nature of the campaign, that they couldn't help but join in for a one-mile stretch.
The format of the trail was such that each member was attached to the one in front using colourful material and as they chanted and danced across the streets of London's famous landmarks,every so often a loud whistle would be blown which would signal the chain to brake apart and freeze into crazy poses, with team members lying on the floor, others blocking pathways and some hanging off of railings. The public were amused and confused by this spectacle, they began asking questions and taking photos uploading onto social networks. Whilst the team remained in statue forms, a few team members handed out information leaflets about the campaign along with lollipops! After a few minutes, the whistle is blown once again and the chain reforms to continue the journey.
Year 10 students from Little Ilford School had joined Restless Beings to chant there way to voice the Roma Gypsy community. Asia, Anisah, Hassan, Daisy and Claudia shared there love and respect throughout the course of the roaming trail. Despite the long 6 mile walk the students were committed, hard working and energetic from start to end.
Chanting and Laughing
'We arrived at Trafalgar square, chanting and laughing, everyone stared to see what the noise was about. Here we, encountered out first hurdle, security were telling us they would have us arrested if we did not leave, but we were not going to give up, we would not allow security to silence us.' explained Sana Abbassi one of the organisers of the campaign and team members of Restless Beings. As such, the walk continued through Trafalgar Square and past the National Art Gallery, championing the rights of the Roma community.
After a 10 minute break, the team cleared their throats, reformed the chain and headed towards Blackfriars Bridge chanting and singing now with more energy and more enthusiasm! Freezing in solid forms on the bridge caused the public to dodge past, walk around, and even the occasional nudge but all in healthy, amusing spirits.
Nancy, another Restless Beings campaign organiser described some of the hurdles that the team faced during the walk - 'As we walked through Embankment, we encountered our second hurdle -a couple of aggressive men who disagreed with what we were doing. Our team remained professional and were able to avoid them.
Lunch provided an opportunity for many members of the general public, enjoying the hottest day of the year so far, to ask and enquire further about the campaign,what the statements on the t-shirts meant etc. Intrigued by this, they continued to ask questions and show support.
As the trail headed towards Tower Bridge, the same two aggressive men from earlier, now worse for wear and drunk began shouting verbal and racial abuse. One of the men jumped on a team member and punched him three times and leaped forward to attack others. Our team consisted of people of different ethnicities from as young as 8 years old to 35. The younger activists became very frightened and were shaken up by this incident. Everyone remained professional and some team members immediately switched into support mode, ensuring everybody was okay. Despite the biggest obstacle in our journey, team members were determined to continue and showed true passion. In a sense of weird justice, it is the ignorance and lack of respect for rights so clearly visible in these two thugs which highlights the need for education. More telling was the apathy, sitting-on-the-fence approach from the general public who, for arguments sake would be more inclined to join an anti-racism, or a stop-the-war campaign but who largely remain indignant of Roma rights. The trail responded back, in peace of course, with chants of 'Down with the fascists! Down with the fascists!' - to the delight of the team, the general public seemed to join in with this, chant.
Passion for Gypsy Rights
Within half an hour everyone was marching and singing again, as Tower Bridge was crossed, where a few young boys were intrigued by what was happening and decided to join the trail. Cars driving passed horned and a group of Roma Gypsies who were very fascinated showed a lot of support. After waving goodbye to new contacts the trail marched passed Altab Ali Park, as determined as ever, towards Brick Lane. The support continued down Brick Lane with people coming out of shops and singing and chanting, one man played his bongo drums alongside the chants, peace signs were high up and all danced and chanted with heaps of energy in this final part of our trail.
'Despite the hurdles we successfully championed the rights of the Roma community, gaining much support along the way. The whole team showed true commitment and passion for Roma Gypsy rights, and the fascists made us more determined in our fight for equality.' commented Tasnia, one of the leading organisers of the campaign.
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Pictures courtesy of Fokrul Islam