Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon’s latest attack on the town’s beggars has split opinions across Teesside.
Last week Mr Mallon launched an unprovoked rant about those who beg for money on Middlesbrough’s streets, declaring they “are not homeless, they are criminals,” and later adding that they “diversify from crime to begging because it pays well.”
His views – which were expressed during a meeting of Middlesbrough Council’s Executive – split opinions of Teessiders who took to social media sites to make their feelings known.
Teesside Homeless Action Group (THAG) have backed the comments which were condemned by local anti-capitalist campaign group, Teesside Solidarity Movement (TSM).
Francis Owens, manager of THAG, said:
“I agree with the comments made by Mayor Mallon.
“The people begging in Middlesbrough and elsewhere are no more homeless than the people they are cadging money from.
“It is easy money for people who have no conscience about exploiting people’s compassion for the poor.
“In the past we at THAG have campaigned against the large numbers of beggars in central Middlesbrough who claimed that they were homeless.
“At first we tried to help them but soon realised that they wanted no help from our organisation because they already had homes.
“THAG gave up doing outreach work in Middlesbrough years ago because there were no rough sleepers to be found.
“This problem is almost all year round but at Christmas the streets seem to abound with young men sitting crosslegged asking for spare change, some have dogs usually a sleeping bag is positioned close by as if that is their only shelter from the elements whilst sleeping rough.
“I met a beggar on Redcar High Street recently, sitting with his dog.
“People were giving him money and food for his dog so I approached him and asked if he was homeless to which he replied, ‘No, I’ve got a home but I do this because I can’t hold down a job and it’s easy.’
“Needless to say the people nearby put their money back into their pockets.”
> Two things spring to mind – (a) the beggar was really stupid, if he admitted that in front of people, or (b) he was being sarcastic – some officious twat comes up and demands to know if you’re homeless, you might just reply “no of course not, I live in a mansion and my Rolls Royce is parked around the corner.”
But TSM representative Lawrie Coombs said:
“Even given official figures, we know that begging has increased by 70% in many areas but this is down to Government Policy not criminality.
“Millions are being sanctioned, using foodbanks and homelessness is becoming a common experience for many young people in particular.”
The former Nightshelter project worker, who has direct experience of working with homeless young people, added:
“Ray Mallon goes for easy rhetoric, says nothing and does nothing about the real criminals in society.
“At a time when our rulers are encouraging division, we know that Mr Mallon’s loose talk may well result in vulnerable people facing persecution rather than having their needs met.
“His comments ratchet up the agenda of scapegoating people on benefits.
“He may well think people down on their luck are scum but we think the tens of thousands of people surviving on benefits across Teesside are heroes, performing miracles getting through every day.
“Being hard up is not a crime.”
> Mallon’s previous rant can be found here: https://unemployedtynewear.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/beggars-are-targeting-car-parks-as-people-give-money-there-says-ray-mallon/
along with a brief history of Mallon’s less-than-snow-white career as a cop.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 16 Dec 2014
Police have warned that any anti-social or criminal behaviour linked to a planned English Defence League demonstration will be dealt with “robustly”.
It comes as hundreds of demonstrators plan to march through Middlesbrough later this month.
Cleveland Police officers are in talks with a number of groups over plans by members of the EDL from as far afield as London and Scotland to gather in the town on June 28.
About 250 EDL supporters have already confirmed they are attending on Facebook – with organisers saying full details of the demo will be released “at a later date”.
It is understood that they may try to march through residential areas, finishing at the war memorial on Linthorpe Road.
It comes after a recent demonstration in Newcastle city centre in which Teesside flags could be seen.
Counter demonstrations are also being planned by groups opposed to the EDL.
Cleveland Police Superintendent Mark Thornton said: “A representative of the EDL has made contact with police informing us of their intention to gather in Middlesbrough later this month and we are in dialogue with them.
“Groups have a lawful right to gather or protest in a peaceful manner and Cleveland Police will plan for and try to facilitate such events.
“We are aware that other groups have expressed their intention to gather and express their own views that day however, as yet, no representatives have come forward to give police a clear indication of their intentions for that day.
“Finally, we are in contact with a number of community groups from across Middlesbrough to reassure them of our commitment to the day passing off peacefully, without incident, and with minimal disruption to residents of and visitors to Middlesbrough.
“I would stress that anyone coming to Cleveland with the intention of taking part in anti-social or criminal behaviour will be dealt with robustly.”
John Bloom, a spokesman for Teesside Solidarity Movement, which is calling on Teessiders to stand against the EDL march, said: “We are asking the real decent people of Middlesbrough and Teesside to come out and to stand with us instead on the 28th.
“Let’s show those who want to divide us, by race and by colour that we will have none of it.
“Ours will be a celebration together of what’s good about Teesside folk, standing together against the racism.
“Boro folk are not black and white. We are all colours and creeds together, just Boro folk trying to get along and making a life together.
“Middlesbrough is a town that was built by incomers, the Irish who built the docks, the Scots who came to work at the steelworks, the West Indians and Asians who came to work in our health service.
“On the 70th anniversary of the D Day landings, we are reminded of the price that we pay, when we allow people to try to set us apart from each other by race and religion.”
Mr Bloom said the details of the solidarity parade were being finalised.
Nobody from the EDL was available for comment.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 11 June 2014