'I want justice for me and my unborn child' - shocking video emerges of arrest of pregnant Gypsy mother

24 September 2020
'I want justice for me and my unborn child' - shocking video emerges of arrest of pregnant Traveller mother

Shocking videos of two Gypsy and Traveller women being arrested during a police raid on an unauthorised camp in Essex have been sent to the Travellers’ Times.

In the videos the two women are surrounded by police and handcuffed as screaming children run around distraught at what they are seeing.

The women have asked us not to publish the videos because they are so traumatic and instead only the TT can only publish use stills with identities concealed.

“The police pressure pointed me until I was in a seizure,” Whitney – one of the women arrested - told the Travellers’ Times. “I am seven months pregnant," said Whitney who is a Romany Gypsy. The police then hand cuffed me while I was having a seizure and carried me across a field.”

Get off me Whitney
'Get off me - I haven't done anything wrong' screams Whitney

The two arrests came as police served a section 61 eviction on an unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller camp in Harlow.

Section 61 evictions are special powers that the police have that can only be used if the Traveller camp is causing anti-social or other problems. The women who were arrested say that they were causing no trouble and that the police raid came out of nowhere.

“I didn’t do anything wrong they came out of nowhere after arresting the first woman,” said Whitney. “I didn’t touch the police, I didn’t do anything wrong, they just came into my camp and seized me without provocation. I have never been arrested before in my life.”

Whitney can be seen in one of the videos having a seizure and collapsing as police initially try to hold her upright. In the background another Traveller woman can be heard crying pout to the police; “she’s epileptic!” A Traveller child - a young boy – can also be seen desperately trying to pass the police an inhaler for Whitney as she collapses to the ground. Another child, obviously confused and distraught, can be heard repeatedly yelling – “Call the police, someone call the police!” Another child, a young teenage girl is forcibly pushed out of the way as she tries to defend the women.

A teenage girl is shoved out of the way
A teenage girl is shoved out of the way

“They police took me to the station and after having me in custody all day with no charge I was de-arrested after I was taken to hospital because my heart rate was so high,” says Whitney. “Down the police station an officer also said to me; ‘custody isn’t that bad you can have a shower with one off us present,’ which scared me even more. I am now scared of the police.”

The Traveller camp appeared a few months after the Labour run Harlow Council failed to renew its injunction banning all unauthorised camps from the Essex town.

The original injunction was granted in an "unprecedented" ruling in 2015, and was applied for jointly by Harlow Council and Essex County Council. At the time, the Gypsy Council described it as "like a police state".

Two arrests - another Traveller woman being arrested
Two arrests - another Traveller woman being arrested

Local Conservative MP, Robert Halfon, who is a known anti-Traveller politician and who is helping to push through the Governments new laws to criminalise trespass, said that the camp was "deeply worrying".

"There must be zero tolerance without equivocation towards illegal encampments," said the MP.

Unauthorised encampments are not “illegal” because no criminal law is being broken.

Bruises. Whitney shows the injuries made during the arrest
Bruises. Whitney shows the injuries made during the arrest

This is not born out by the video evidence that the Travellers’ Times has seen which clearly shows two women being arrested.

“I want the story out and the police not to keep getting away with what they did to me,” says Whitney, who is still traumatised by her experience.

“I have never been arrested in my life and was treated like rubbish and I want justice for me and my unborn child.”

Sherrie Smith, chief of the local charity Gypsies and Travellers Essex said that the police had serious questions to answer.

"Gypsies and Travellers Essex was founded for exactly this reason," said Sherrie Smith, A Romany Gypsy campaigner. 

Essex is an unwelcoming hostile and often dangerous county for GypsY & Traveller residents of Essex and those travelling through.

Essex police have again shown themselves to be institutionally racist to our communities. It’s been 10 years since Dale farm nothings changed, millions wasted. How much did this operation cost Essex police and can that amount of tax payers money be justified for an unauthorised encampment of families, children and pregnant women? 

The levels of violence and aggression is not acceptable an explanation must be given."

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