IT is appalling to hear that the Roma Holocaust memorial in Queen’s Park in Glasgow has, once again, been vandalised.

The memorial – which was inaugurated by the Roma community organisation Romano Lav (“Roma Voice”) on August 2, 2019 – marks Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.

Consisting of a rose bush and a plaque, the memorial commemorates August 2, 1944, the day the Nazis perpetrated the single biggest act of mass murder in their genocide of the Roma people. On that day around 4000 men, women and children were murdered in the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

All told, perhaps as many as 500,000 Roma and Sinti people (around half of the European population at the time) died in the Nazi Holocaust – a genocide that many among the Romani peoples call the Porajmos (the “Devouring”). The Roma and the Sinti belong to diasporic peoples who originated in northern India, but have been in Europe as far back as the ninth century CE.

READ MORE: The Deathless Woman: A haunting voice from Roma people’s tragic past

The recent vandalism is the third time the memorial has been attacked in the last three years. It is an outrageous desecration that should concern every decent person in Scotland.

Since the Holocaust, the Romani peoples have remained among the most oppressed people in Europe. Largely concentrated in the countries of eastern and central Europe (but with significant populations in a number of countries in the west of the continent), they have faced relentless racism, including marginalisation in employment, housing and access to state services.

Often, the Roma face neglect, if not outright hostility, from the very police forces that should be protecting them from racist abuse and violence. Take the case of Stanislav Tomas, for example.

Tomas died in June of last year, aged 46, in the small Czech town of Teplice after a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than six minutes. The parallels with the murder of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis in 2020 are stark. Tomas should be remembered as “the Roma George Floyd”.

Horrifyingly, given the Nazis’ attempt to wipe out the entire Roma population of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, there are still those who seek to, once again, threaten the very existence of the Roma people.

As detailed in writer/director Roz Mortimer’s excellent new film The Deathless Woman, the Roma are subjected to continued violence – including murder – by neo-Nazi and far-right terror gangs.

When the fascist Jayda Fransen stood against Nicola Sturgeon in the southside of Glasgow last year – accusing the First Minister of “flooding” Scotland with immigrants – there can be no question that she was trying to capitalise on racism, particularly towards non-white migrants, including the Roma. Fransen’s campaign was an ignominious failure, of course, and her vote was derisory.

However, the fact that we have in Scottish society the kind of people who would set out to desecrate a Roma Holocaust memorial shows that we still have a long way to go. Thankfully, Scotland’s Roma community – which has its largest concentration in the Govanhill district on the southside of Glasgow – knows that it has allies in the wider society.

Romano Lav has a sister organisation – called, straightforwardly enough, Friends of Romano Lav – that promotes friendship and solidarity with the Roma community (including Roma participation in the annual Govanhill International Festival and Carnival). The Stand Up to Racism campaign group is among others who have marched arm-in-arm with the Roma against the prejudice and oppression they continue to face.

As Jim Monaghan, director of the Board of Trustees at Romano Lav said of the latest desecration of the Queen’s Park memorial: “It is disrespectful to hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti people who were murdered by the Nazis.” He is right, of course.

To attack such a memorial is no different from desecrating a Jewish memorial to the six million who perished in the Shoah (the “Catastrophe”). It is a privilege to have a Scots-Roma community – the descendants of Holocaust survivors – living in our midst.

If, as Scots, we truly mean it when we describe our nation as “one country, many cultures”, we must stand in solidarity with the most oppressed among us. If you can, join with Glasgow’s Roma community on the Govanhill Festival parade on August 6.