Some 400 Travellers at Dale Farm were preparing to resist eviction from their homes as Socialist Worker went to press.
Travellers have lived at the site in Basildon, Essex, for ten years. The site is the biggest in Britain. And the Travellers own the land.
But Basildon council, led by Tory Tony Ball, wants to force them out—despite the fact that many have nowhere to go.
Breda has lived at Dale Farm for ten years. She told Socialist Worker, “The council should have a bit of compassion for the sick people and children.
“I heard an MP saying that if we were a supermarket or some business we’d be left here.”
The council aimed to begin an eviction last month. A series of legal challenges forced them to delay.
But Travellers lost an application to appeal against a judicial ruling that the eviction could go ahead on Monday of this week.
And now the callous council is refusing to tell them when an eviction will begin.
Mary, another Traveller, said the stress was too much to bear. “I don’t know how rough the bailiffs will be or what damage they will do,” she told Socialist Worker.
“If they evict us we could end up scattered all over the world.”
Margaret added, “I’m worried they’ll break my home up and leave me homeless. But we’re going to try our best to stop it.”
The council claims it is throwing Travellers off their land because the land is greenbelt. But it was a scrapyard when they bought it.
As Breda put it, “This was not a beautiful green field with babbling brooks. It was full of scrap, rubble and medical waste.”
Danny, another Traveller, added, “The council is giving the wrong image. And they’re the ones building houses on green fields.”
Their arguments about “restoring” greenbelt have fallen apart.
Judicial rulings mean the council can’t carry out a full clearance of the site in any case. Some homes and buildings will remain, as will walls, gates and fences.
But an eviction still threatens Travellers’ lives. Many have serious health problems that require regular medical checks and constant care.
Now they face life on the road—being constantly moved on by police, with no regular doctor or basic facilities.
Around 100 children live at Dale Farm. An eviction would wreck their education.
Danny has lived at Dale Farm for ten years. He told Socialist Worker, “I grew up on the road. I can’t read or write. Children here go to school. How can they go to school if we’re on the road?”
Dale Farm Travellers have won widespread support—from unions, campaign organisations such as Unite Against Fascism, MPs and ordinary people.
They have even won backing from the United Nations, which says an eviction could breach their human rights.
Supporters set up Camp Constant at Dale Farm at the end of August. They urgently need people to come to the camp to show solidarity with Travellers and defend their homes.
Charlie, a supporter, told Socialist Worker, “I’m not especially political but I grew up next to a Travelling site.
“Traveller kids were my friends and there were never any problems.
“Some people say Travellers can’t ignore the law. But I don’t think you can abide by the law when the law is so unfair.”
An eviction at Dale Farm would set a terrible precedent. It would give a green light to councils everywhere to go on the offensive against Travellers.
That’s why it is so important that Dale Farm Travellers are helped to resist.
As Kathleen, a Traveller, put it, “We will never give up the land. We need this to be a stand for our civil rights—and we need people to come and help us.”
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