Why There is the Need for a Website Like This
The summer of 2013 City and County of San Francisco began the deportation of our family from the Sunset neighborhood where we have lived since 1997. From 1992 til 1997, we toured the country but then we had to leave the road after almost six years full-time traveling, due to discovering my husband’s health problems.
The City has continued its policy of hate with Carmen Chu’s recently approved code alteration prohibiting “over-sized vehicles” from “being stored” on certain streets. Since the initial set of streets were prohibited to us, another 61 streets have been added and the “real” citizens are in the news demanding that THEIR streets be added to the prohibition. A small, vocal group has been agitating for years to remove us from their neighborhood. But is it really THEIR neighborhood? The laws that make our life so miserable (SFPD code 97-98 and 2013 SFMTA 7.2.54) are what Black’s Law Dictionary defines as ‘Jim Crow Laws’ which first assign inferiority then set out to prosecute it.
We, a married couple (just completed our 20th anniversary), with three children, lived in the small brown RV (in photo) from 2006 until recently, when we bought the bigger, white one after my husband received SSI disability.
I am an ethnic American-Scottish Traveller. My maiden name is Robertson. I grew up travelling throughout Scotland, the U.K. and the European continent. By DNA, I am a nomad. In Europe, we are simply called, as a group, gypsyTravellers. Also GRT which stands for Gypsy-Roma-Traveller We live in vehicles, big over-sized vehicles. World-wide and historically that’s what we do. We live in vehicles. We like it. And yes, we are willing to fight for it.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act says that I cannot be denied access to public facilities due to my ethnicity. The Dept. of Defense’s Handbook of Terms states that the roadway maintained for public use, as well as the dirt it sits on, is a public facility.
Signs outside my door say “Habitation of a Vehicle Prohibited” fines/arrest … 6 months in county jail. The law says that from 10 pm to 6 am it is illegal for us to eat or sleep. Those are basic human functions. Every person must eat and sleep. Therefore, to be me is, in and of itself, a crime. No other minority in the world has this on their back. But as a gypsyTraveller, I am committing a crime to feed my body or to rest it.
Why isn’t my home a home, damn it ?
A home is where you rush to in a storm. Home is dry and warm and safe and yours. Home is where you go to hide when you are sad or sick. Home is where you feel safe and secure and at peace. Home is where you sleep. Home is where you dream. A home is private. Home is where you make your love and rock the resulting babies to sleep. A home is the Sunday paper in bed together and a lazy nap all afternoon. Home is where a marriage is crafted. A home is for anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas and Easter mornings. A home is for long romantic dinners, Sunday fried-chicken-and-mashed-potatoes, Friday night fish, celebration pot roasts, and middle-of-the-night cold pizza. A home is for a glazed lemon coconut cake cooling on the kitchen counter making everyone drool. Home is where you pour yourself a cup of tea and the cat a bowl of milk while you watch the sun come up. So first and foremost, home is where you serve food. And then second, it’s where you sleep. Those are the two things the City of San Francisco outlawed. Seems like they certainly thought this through.
Click on any photo and it enlarges becoming a slideshow of our new home.
My book of essays about the pain and human indignity these anti-RV “laws” caused us.
In a letter from the Birmingham jail in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote
“We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with. Injustice must be exposed with all the tension its exposing creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of nation opinion before it can be cured.”
That little brown, slightly shabby RV was home for the years after the police seized our schoolbus. What harm is it doing to the community sitting there taking up all of 24 feet?
No, it’s not the RV that’s causing the ‘problem’ – it’s the gypsyTraveller in the community that is perceived as harmful. It’s called xenophobia, the fear of unknown people, strangers, in your midst.
The man in the video screenshot above (who runs the neighborhood watch) doesn’t tell you what his group really does. From 10 pm on, throughout the night, they roam around the neighborhood and take photos of RVs parked and then go home and fax the police the location of the offenders. No big deal right?
Except these citizen ‘patrols’ come back and bring a form (complete with attached photos of the offending vehicle) and bang on the door at all hours. Vaguely reminds you of Europe in the late 1930’s. They say: “Your crime has been reported to the police.” I always respond in the same firm but polite way: “The Constitution of the State of California has given me the right to possess and protect my property and under the state Constitution I have the right to pursue and obtain happiness, safety and privacy. Which you are clearly violating just by knocking on my door.” They sputter and leave, angry and more than ever determined to rid their neighborhood of me. I have seen the face of hate. Again and again. Now I am going to show it to the world.
Our middle son worked at the nearby Ocean Beach Safeway, first as a bagger then a cashier until he finished high school and joined the Marines to reach his goal of being in the ReCon division. He recently re-enlisted in the Marines, has become a dive instructor, and he and his wife just had their first child. Our older boy also served in the Marines, and is now living in Lake Tahoe. Our daughter, the middle child, worked several years as a visual merchandiser at Stonestown Mall and just had her first baby in April. All the children’s friends are in the Sunset neighborhood and they are very active members of the Sunset Youth Center, including volunteering for their food bank. Since they grew up here since 1998, Sunset will always be THEIR neighborhood.
But it’s our youngest son, in his Junior year at Washington High School, who is suffering from this County deportation. Sunset is the only community he has ever known. This is damaging our youngest son’s education. His grades dropped from B-/C+ to a flat F and he dropped out the football team and won’t join the basketball team or try out for track as he had planned over the summer. He says “WHY BOTHER? I HAVE TO LEAVE HERE, SO SAY THE NEIGHBORS.”
And ya’ know what? He’s right. He is being deported because his mother is a gypsyTraveller.
President Barack Obama recently signed an executive order that will give an estimated 800,000 young people who are illegally in the United States “deferred action” status and a work permit. The beneficiaries of this new policy must meet the following criteria: They were brought to the U.S. before they were 16 years of age; They can prove they have been here continuously for the past five years; They graduated from high school, completed a G.E.D., or are presently enrolled in high school or a G.E.D. program.
How can the President care so much to save 800,000 students from having their educations interfered with while our son, an American citizen, and a junior in high school, can be deported by the City and County of San Francisco from the only place he has ever known because his mother is a gypsyTraveller who insists on living on wheels ?
CLICK HERE to read more about the community’s feelings towards us (I am quoted in this article)
One of the definitions in the United Nations Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the crime of Genocide, adopted 1948, ratified 1951: Article II, c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, in whole or in part.
By self-publishing a book of resistance essays, we begin to push back and attempt, in some small way, to protest this wholesale County-mandated deportation that is already causing harm to our children as the date looms closer and closer. What would YOU do if you were being sent from the community like vermin? In the U.K. it was recently reported in the media that the gypsyTraveller community had a rate of suicide six times higher than the settled community. I can completely understand it and I want to tell anyone who reads this, I am stretched to the limit of my patience and optimism.
In addition to the education struggles that this causes for my youngest, I am worried over the stress on my husband’s health. His doctor of 15 years is here. A hospital he is used to just minutes away. Where will I ever find that again for him? Oh, so I can already hear the City Supervisors saying, really you don’t have to leave San Francisco, just these certain neighborhoods… are you SERIOUS? This completely burdens my right-to-travel by imposing a penalty because you have crafted a ‘law’ (i.e. authority) that as soon as I get my family comfortable somewhere, then BAM, up go the signs again, causing us to be shoved out another neighborhood.
And each time it happens, the citizen gets more and more justified in his complaints to the police about the ‘problem’, until one day, they simply start arresting us. And they won’t even have to get a law to do it either because one already exists.
The City has produced a perfect trifecta of ‘Jim Crow’ laws: one ‘law’ will deny me a public stipend to sustain life, a second ‘law’ will seize my home in merely 8 days, and the third will put in jail (or take my money in fines I can’t afford) for being what I am, a gypsyTraveller. I was born this way. Yes, I am someone who lives on wheels, that’s what gypsyTravellers do, worldwide and historically, we live on wheels.
I have always lived this way, and I intend to always live this way because I can’t help it, it makes me happy. I own my own home and yes, I am happy because I can move it, so that I am free to travel. But the right to travel also means the right to NOT travel, to NOT be forced to leave a jurisdiction. I think there is a serious Constitutional problem with these laws ACROSS AMERICA but no gypsyTraveller ever slowed down long enough to do anything about it.
Demand the repeal of Nomadic People Removal Laws like San Francisco’s 2012 Traffic Code 7.2.54 and the obscene 1971 SFPD Code 97-98. All because we live in a vehicle. That’s not right, people. It’s called apartheid. Really. I know it’s incomprehensible that such an evil word would be thrown at such a politically-correct City as San Francisco. Apartheid. Get out. Assimilate. Or get out. Apartheid. I can’t help being what I am, I am a Traveller. I cannot live in a house. I haven’t lived in a house since 1992.
Thank you for reading this. Please care/please share. Not many people even realize this is going on.
Read more @ my magazine under construction: www.nomadicproud.com
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