Wednesday, October 19, 2011

UK: The Battle for Dale Farm

Riot police used axes to smash through fences and evict dozens of traveller families living illegally on the Dale Farm site in Essex this morning. Tasers were unleashed on violent protesters who retaliated with a hail of missiles and buckets of urine shortly after the eviction got underway at the rear of the illegal camp just after sunrise. Talks that were going on at the front gate are thought to have been a police distraction.

Anarchists used motorcycle D-locks to chain themselves by the neck to ruined cars but police used their shields to barge protesters aside as they marched deeper into the site.

Electricity was cut and moments later a caravan was set alight, sending flames and thick black smoke into the air. After a 90-minute stand-off, the police made another push into the site at 9.25am and scaled the scaffolding at the entrance to the camp.

Several masked protesters have been taken away in handcuffs. But aroun 25 protesters remain on the main gate as officers continue the struggle to remove them one by one.

There were angry confrontations with the travellers, with insults thrown at the police. But they continued with the eviction and strapped together the legs and arms of a man who was lying on the roof of a small building.

Wearing helmets and clutching shields, the officers turned up at the site determined to tackle the travellers who last night declared 'this time it's war - bring it on'. The police had prepared under the cover of darkness and marched over nearby countryside to arrive at the back of the site just before 7.30am.

A warning klaxon was sounded three times to notify travellers then bulldozers were used to smash down fences. Police hacked through shabby fences to get into the site. At another barricade, a strong line of officers ignored a rambling traveller and pushed forward. Anarchists were chained by their necks to ruined vehicles filled with concrete.

Just 24 hours earlier, following years of negotiations that cost the taxpayer £18million, the travellers lost their bid to keep the homes that had been built illegally on green belt land.

Essex Police said two protesters have been Tasered today and one person arrested. They made a number of attempts to negotiate with demonstrators to leave the site peacefully. The force said: 'Officers have this morning entered the Dale Farm site following intelligence which informed the commanders that anyone entering the site was likely to come up against violence and a serious breach of the peace would occur.

Residents in neighbouring counties have been preparing themselves for an influx of the evicted travellers. Park wardens have started digging trenches around open land to ensure that caravans cannot be driven onto the grass. Supermarkets have also stepped up security to prevent the travellers from using their carparks and road junctions are being monitored.

Farmers in the area surrounding Dale Farm have placed hay bales and farming equipment at the entrances to their land to prevent residents getting in following the eviction, local residents said.

One said: 'They have begun to do this in the last couple of weeks. It looks like it is to stop evicted residents getting on to the farms.'

Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said: 'We now believe that those who want to leave peacefully have already done so and those who are left have made it clear that they have no intention of co-operating with the council.

'Resistance and violence as some are now suggesting will be in nobody's interest - especially not the travellers or their families. We now must get on with the difficult job of clearing Dale Farm in as safe and dignified a manner as possible - and that is what we will now do.

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