Traveller children chanting, “Hell no, we won’t go!” led a protest in Basildon, Essex last Saturday against plans to evict Travellers at Dale Farm.
Basildon council is set to spend £18 million to make around 400 Travellers homeless. The Travellers have lived at Dale Farm for years and own the land.
The march showed the widespread support that Travellers have—both from individuals and from campaign groups.
Chas and Elsie are pensioners who live in Rayleigh, a few miles from the site. They said they had always campaigned to defend Travellers. Elsie called the cost of the eviction “disgraceful”. Chas added, “The real cost is the cost of human life, the impact on the youngsters living there.”
Others travelled hundreds of miles to join the 300-strong protest. Siobhan from Lancaster told Socialist Worker “I just think it’s absurd. Of all the things to spend money on, why this?”
Home made banners and placards focused on the awful impact that an eviction would have. One read, “Don’t make us part of the housing problem” while a child carried a placard reading, “I love school—don’t evict me”.
Margaret, a Traveller from Dale Farm, said the protest had given her “a bit of spirit”. She told Socialist Worker, “The council is destroying our culture—and they won’t listen to anything we have to say.”
Nora, another Traveller, added, “My two children were born in Basildon and have lived at Dale Farm all their lives. Now the council wants to spend £18 million to put children on the side of the road.”
As the march wound through Wickford town centre, lots of people stopped to watch. Some were hostile—but others supported the Travellers.
Leanne has lived in Basildon for 30 years. “I think the council should leave them alone,” she told Socialist Worker. “They’re not doing any harm. They just want to live.”
Richard Howitt, Labour MEP for the east of England, told Socialist Worker, “Basildon council has made a cynical calculation that it can win votes by whipping up prejudice against Travellers. But I hope that international pressure can make a difference.”
The attack on Travellers at Dale Farm is part of a wider assault on Travellers that governments are pursuing across Europe. An eviction will make life harder for Travellers everywhere.
Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, warned that an eviction would have dangerous implications.
“Fascists have been active in campaigning against Travellers,” he said. “If the council gets away with the eviction, it will boost racists.”
The council says it will evict Travellers during the week beginning 19 September. Get to Dale Farm and help to defend them.
Go to http://dalefarm.wordpress.com for information and to get involved