In the May issue of New Internationalist (UK edition) we wrote about a new frontline in the battle for travellers’ rights (the article is reproduced at the end of this blog). The residents of Dale Farm have been under threat of being forced from their homes for months; now, Basildon Council has sent eviction notices. In response, a day of action is planned for this Saturday, 9 July, as the below press release explains.
MASSIVE CALL OUT FOR ACTION: EVICTION NOTICES SERVED
Today, Monday 4 July, some 90 families at Dale Farm, the UK’s largest Traveller community, were delivered final notices of eviction, giving families until midnight on 31 August to abandon their homes, or face their entire community being bulldozed. The central government and Basildon Council have set aside over £18m for the eviction battle that could last three weeks. It will be the biggest clearance of its kind involving the ploughing up of 54 separate plots which were created out of a former concrete scrap-yard, purchased by the Travellers ten years ago.
Dale Farm is only a 30 minute train ride from London, and hundreds of people have pledged to join residents in nonviolent resistance to the destruction of Dale Farm. The residents of Dale Farm have encouraged their supporters to establish a base at Dale Farm, Camp Constant, to resist this eviction and house human rights monitors.
THIS IS A MASS CALL OUT FOR ACTION: JOIN CAMP CONSTANT NOW!
Camp Constant, a mass gathering of national and international supporters of the Dale Farm community will begin Saturday, 27 Augusth:
* Starting with a weekend of Traveller history and celebration
* Plus practical eviction resistance training
* Training for legal observers and human rights monitors
* Opening party, Saturday night
Sleeping space is available in caravans or you can bring a tent if you can stay Saturday night. The eviction could go ahead right after midnight on August 31st, so we will be staying at Dale Farm before then in preparation.
* You can sign up to our email bulletins here.
From the May 2011 issue of New Internationalist:
Travellers protest against Dale Farm eviction
On a new frontline in the international battle for travellers’ rights, a community of some 1,000 travellers is calling for a human shield to be set up around their homes to protect them from forcible removal by their local council and a private eviction company notorious for conducting violent removals.
Bailiff company Constant and Co is gearing up to remove any stragglers from Dale Farm in Essex, with the complete compliance of Basildon council, which has told the travellers they must leave the site where many of them grew up. Essex police have also applied for an extra £10 million from the Home Secretary to help fund the eviction, and riot police may be drafted in.
‘The eviction would be a death sentence for a number of older and frailer people who can no longer cope with life on the road,’ says Grattan, campaigner and secretary of the Dale Farm Housing Association. ‘Others are in the advanced stages of cancer, many have learning disabilities and we have a young mother with triplets. Over 100 children go to the local school and it would cause complete disruption to force them to move.’
Camp Constant was set up on 9 April, the day after Roma Nation Day, and attracted travellers from across Europe who came to stand by their friends and obstruct the eviction.
Grattan says that physical protest is now the only option open to the community, which has exhausted all planning permissions, public enquiries and appeals. Previous marches of up to 300 people to the local council and demonstrations at Parliament Square and Downing Street have fallen on deaf ears.
Although the travellers are being trained in nonviolent resistance, Grattan says he fears things could turn nasty: ‘An eviction can’t take place without violence – bulldozing people’s homes is by definition violent and destructive.
‘Serious complaints about Constant and Co have been well documented by the traveller community. They use heavy machinery and carry out evictions without proper safety measures. There are small children around and the bailiffs are not qualified to handle them. They just pull them out of their way.’
English gypsy families moved to Dale Farm in the 1960s after they were evicted from previous sites, and half of the 100 properties on the site have permission to be there. The other properties are in dispute, because the people living there don’t have right of residence, even though they own the land itself. The land is greenbelt, but before the travellers moved in the council used it as a dumping ground for abandoned vehicles.