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Oh, I forgot to mention Folk er folk. That’s a group – the name, as you might have guessed, means “people are people” – which publishes a “street magazine” peddled on the sidewalks by homeless people. Folk er folk leapt into the controversy on the side of the gypsies, its leader, Bjørnulv Evenrud, claiming that the several dozen gypsies who hawk his rag qualify for government support – including unemployment, child benefits, and all the many other types of welfare available here in the land of the fjords. Rather surprisingly, the Ministry of Labor shot that one down pronto.
Meanwhile, the authorities had finally worked up the nerve to order the gypsies to move. All seemed lost – but then, out of the blue, came a new offer in the form of a large plot of land in Årvoll, a residential neighborhood on Oslo’s outskirts. The gypsies’ savior was Vanessa Quintavalle of Årvoll Eiendom (Årvoll Properties), who said that a construction project on the site had been halted for a few weeks and that in the meantime the gypsies were welcome to live there.
No sooner had the gyspies begun to pitch their tents in Årvoll, however, than a problem or two arose. First – and whole articles were written about this alone – the gypsies didn’t particularly care for their new home. The ground was too stony – almost like a quarry, they complained. Second, most of the local homeowners – surprise! – weren’t thrilled either. Some threatened to form a human chain to keep out their new neighbors; others expressed disgust that a couple of hundred people were moving onto a lot that had no toilets, showers, or sanitation facilities – and that was only a stone’s throw from a day-care center. Third, it turned out that Quintavalle, before offering the site to the gypsies, had neglected to consult her business partner, who was on vacation at the time, and who, when informed about his two hundred or so new free tenants, was not, to coin a phrase, a happy camper. Fourth, the lot, as it happens, was located right next door to a shooting range. (A member of a local rifle club wondered aloud: “Who’s responsible if there’s an accident?”) Fifth, it turned out that it’s against Norwegian law to live on a construction site.
As this farce wore on, more and more people actually dared to speak up and criticize the tent people, until it finally got to be too much for Rene Karoli, king of the gypsies (who, coincidentally, lives in Oslo and has his own Norwegian rap sheet – but that’s another story). On July 15, Karoli phoned TV2 and ranted for almost twenty minutes about the outrageous mistreatment of his subjects. The next day he met a TV2 reporter at Årvoll, where, before entering the camp, he vented his rage in an interview: “What we see here in Årvoll today is the same thing that we saw in Auschwitz in Hitler’s time. We thank Norway for this. Our country!” he sneered. “Even a dog or a cat has a place to live here in Norway! These people have nothing!” Karoli produced a list (he’d put it together, he explained, with the help of a certain high-profile Oslo law firm) of the Norwegian government’s obligations to the people in the camp. “Now I’d like for us to go in [and meet] my gypsies!” he said.
Whereupon Karoli and TV2′s reporter entered the tent camp. Karoli started speaking to “his” gypsies. Within moments, his whole demeanor had changed. “These aren’t gypsies!” he sputtered. “They can’t speak our language!…They don’t understand what I’m saying!” Right there on camera, Karoli did a full 180: “I’m so sorry for everything I’ve said. I take it all back. These people don’t belong to our people.” Asked by TV2′s reporter if he was still interested in helping them, Karoli said: “No. I’ll pass on that….Sorry again. Have a nice day.”
Well, apparently they were gypsies, but not the right kind of gypsies. Or something like that. In any event, later that day the local authorities and the Oslo Health Department both ordered the property at Årvoll vacated (one of the reasons, in addition to all the others listed above, being the danger of landslides). But when asked about this order, apparently in English, by an NRK reporter, one of Årvoll’s new residents, who was on his way out into the woods to fetch some water, replied, in kind-of-English, “No, not move!” According to NRK, none of the other fresh arrivals at Årvoll wanted to move either.
So things stood as of Monday night.
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