There are less than two weeks left to save the Dale Farm Traveller site in Basildon, Essex.
Basildon Council plans to forcibly evict around 400 people at the site. It says the eviction will take place during the week beginning 19 September.
But Travellers are prepared to defend their homes—and have won widespread support.
Mary Sheridan, one of those facing eviction, told Socialist Worker that the Travellers “will not be moved”.
“There are people here from Australia, Japan and Germany supporting us,” she said. “We’re fighting for Gypsy rights.”
Many Travellers are understandably wary of the media because there has been so much distorted coverage of their case. But lots of people were happy to speak to Socialist Worker.
Margaret, another Traveller, said, “Black people fought for years for their rights and that’s good—otherwise they’d still be in the dirt. Gay people have rights and that’s good. We’re next.”
Basildon Council is prepared to spend £18 million to wrench hundreds of people from their homes. It says the Travellers have to move because the land is greenbelt. The Travellers disagree.
Danny has lived at Dale Farm for ten years. He told Socialist Worker, “The council gives the impression that this was a lovely green field. It’s wrong. It was a concrete scrapyard.
“They want us out because they hate Irish Travellers. We’ve been tarred with a black brush for the last 100 years. It’s racism. If I go 100 yards up the road to a pub they won’t serve me. Why? Because I’m a Traveller.”
The Travellers who face eviction at Dale Farm own the land but don’t have planning permission to live there. Nonetheless, they have said they are prepared to leave—if the council would find an alternative site for them.
So far, the council has failed to do so and many Travellers have nowhere to go.
Kathleen, another Traveller, warned that an eviction at Dale Farm would set a dangerous precedent.
She told Socialist Worker, “If we lose our rights here, police and councils everywhere will think they can treat us how they want.”
She said the threat of an eviction was taking a heavy toll on Travellers. “It’s affecting us big time. How would you feel if you knew you could be thrown onto the roadside at any moment?
“My granddaughter is one year old today. It’s supposed to be a happy day. But my daughter hasn’t stopped crying. It’s terrible what they are doing to us.”
The council has confirmed that it will cut off electricity when it begins the eviction. Several residents rely on nebuliser breathing machines for oxygen, which run on electricity.
The eviction puts their lives in serious danger.
Many children also live at the site. An eviction would throw their lives into chaos.
Margaret has a six-year old son with Down’s Syndrome. She said, “My son goes to a special needs school. I can’t explain how good the school is—it’s brilliant.
“He has a circle of people he knows who help him. He’s settled there and he loves school. His speech has come on so well, we were all amazed at how well he’s doing.
“If I leave here, it will take so long to build up that kind of support again.”
For others, the stress of the threatened eviction is affecting their health.
Mary told Socialist Worker, “This eviction is not good for me. I’m five and a half months pregnant. I’ve got low blood pressure and I keep collapsing. I have to keep going to the hospital every few days.
“What am I going to do when I’m on the road? Where will I have my baby?”
Travellers at Dale Farm urgently need support—and time is running out.
The eviction can be stopped. Be part of stopping it.
Go to http://dalefarm.wordpress.com to get involved with the campaign