Birstall traveller's site petition 'racist', says campaigner

A petition hoping to reverse a decision to allow a traveller's site at Birstall J27 has been branded racist.
A petition hoping to reverse a decision to allow a traveller's site at Birstall J27 has been branded racist.

A petition of over 5,000 people opposed to the building of a so-called ‘travellers’ site’ close to Birstall Retail Park has been branded racist by a prominent Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) campaigner.

Hungary-born law student Brigitta Balogh, who is hoping to become the first Roma to qualify as a barrister in England and Wales, asked online petition forum change.org to remove the list, denouncing the campaign as ‘antigypsyism’.

The petition was started in opposition to Kirklees Council's plans to allow a so-called 'traveller's site' close to the Showcase Cinema complex at Birstall Retail Park.

Councillors and nearby businesses have joined residents in voicing their opposition to the plans, with one business tabling their concerns over increased crime.

Ms Balogh said: “Any petition against any other minority groups would have been be taken down immediately. Antigypysism is the last acceptable form of racism.”

Change.org responded to Ms Balogh’s concerns by removing the comments feature on the petition. One had read: “Nobody wants these scruffy thieving travellers here bad enough the country the state it’s in already they’ve no intention of working they just live off stealing”.

Another said: “They take what they want when they want, a lot of them are hard nut thugs they use us when they get the chance.”

Ms Balogh said: “Comments made it clear that local people did not want Gypsies and Travellers as their neighbours by calling them thieves and other unpleasant words, indicating that the local shopping mall and other businesses would be targeted by people living on the new Gypsy site.

“Gypsies and Travellers are protected by UK equalities laws from discrimination and racism, and those that live on council sites pay rates, bills and rents, just as other social housing tenants do.”

The owner of the petition has not responded for comment.