Dale Farm: Persecuted, evicted, fighting back!

We want to live in harmony, but we’ ll defend our homes and our human rights if necessary.”
– Richard Sheridan, Dale Farm spokesperson

Over 10 million gypsies, travellers and Roma live in Europe. In every country they have faced centuries of persecution for wishing to maintain their own culture. Over a quarter of a million were murdered in Nazi concentration camps. This persecution continues to the present day. Butchered in Romanian villages, ethnically-cleansed from Kosovo and more recently murdered in Hungary and fire-bombed by Italian thugs, Europe’s 12 million Roma are compelled to make common cause. And on the frontline of this growing conflict stands the bastion of Dale Farm.

The ongoing attempts by Basildon council to evict over 100 traveller families from the Dale Farm site in Crays Hill in Essex has become Britains starkest example of persecution of travellers in the UK. They have followed every suggestion, guidance and legal process that that the state have provided in order to ensure safe and secure homes for themselves and their families. Despite this they continue to face racism and harassment from the both the local council, local residents and the media – all of whom have played a part in stoking the same prejudice and hatred that has allowed the persecution of travelling communities to remain unchallenged for decades. This time the residents of Dale Farm are fighting back. In a way they have no choice – with nowhere else to go an eviction will push families back into a life of insecurity and marginalisation.

It is still unclear when the planned eviction, for which Basildon have earmarked £3million, will finally take place. Dale Farm residents are hoping to appeal to the House of Lords to overturn the Appeal Court finding, and in the meantime Basildon have to deal with over one hundred homelessness applications – one of the few obligations put on them by the Court of Appeal. They have promised that residents will be given 28 days notice of eviction – but whether this can be relied on is unclear. Recent council meetings on the issue have been held behind closed doors and Basildon council have refused to release their plans for the eviction.

Should their final appeal to the House Of Lords fail Dale Farm residents face an army of bailiffs and bulldozers. But this isn’t their last chance. Over the last 4 years the Dale Farm Residents Association have been reaching out to groups outside their own community, using the example of their struggle to highlight the wider problem of traveller repression. The call has been made for all those who refuse to accept the ignorance, intolerance and misinformation peddled by the media and the press to stand with them in solidarity. With support from local communities, churches and activists Dale Farm residents are preparing to resist the biggest traveller eviction in British history. Should they win this could represent a landmark victory – one that calls time on the isolation and repression of this until now marginalised community.

Previous traveller evictions have involved armies of bailiffs, bulldozers and wreckers. Yet Dale Farm have decided enough is enough and are calling for support in resisting. Bristol No Borders, along with many other groups, has agreed to stand with Dale Farm should the eviction finally take place. If you would like to join us please email bristolnoborders@listsriseup.net to get updates and transport down to Dale Farm.

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9 Responses to Dale Farm: Persecuted, evicted, fighting back!

  1. bean says:

    is there a flyer i could print out about this?

  2. Charles Edward says:

    I came upon your article on Dale Farm and I think it is a little unbalanced. There are many people in the local communities of Billericay, Crays Hill and Wickford that are sympathetic to travellers, the area has in fact hosted two large communities of travellers, one of English and one of Irish origin for many years. The problem at Dale Farm was the sudden influx of a large number of travellers who set up homes and built properties illegally on green belt land. This is the key point in the dispute. To say that this is the starkest example of persecution of travellers in the UK is, I would say, something of an exaggeration. You also mention harrassment by local residents, local council and the media. Well, the harrassment is not all one way! Dale Farm is very much a no go area for local residents, postmen and utility providers and even the police. We all hope the dispute can be settled peacefully – no one wants to see families evicted forcibly, but there has to be both give and take. I believe the local council has offered alternative sites, but these have been rejected by the travellers as being unsuitable. Perhaps they were, but some effort is being made to accommodate them rather than just push them out and hope some one else will take them. It’s not as black and white as you paint.

  3. bristolnoborders says:

    Hello Charles,

    thanks for your comment.

    It is indeed true that there are lots of local people that are supporting travelers in Essex, not least the churches, fire brigades and concerned individuals. However there is also a large and vocal minority, encouraged by the local council and media, that constantly make racist and unfounded accusations against the Dale Farm residents, despite not actually knowing any of the people on site.

    According to the gypsy council, who represent the travelling communities in the UK, it is the starkest, and largest example of persectution of travellers. After all, the ‘greenbelt’ everyone so one is keen to protect is an old scrap yard, surrounded by huge roads and a big entertainment and shopping complex. Hardly prisine land…

    The council has been advised on other alternative sites….in fact Dale Farm residents are willing to move should an alternative appropriate site be found in the local area. As I understand the failure of Basildon Council to agree to provide such a site is what much of the legal challenges are based on.

    Finally, my own experience is that Dale Farm residents are generally polite and welcoming when I have been on site, but I wouldn’t be suprised if that wasn’t everyone’s experience. No one is claiming everyone living on the site is a saint – luckily for all of us that doesn’t mean they are not entitled to the same rights as everyone else. In a heated situation like this, where a community feels under attack it stands to reason they are not going to be welcoming to every one who appears in their home. However their are people at Dale Farm that do want to make bridges between their community and local residents…but this is difficult given the huge divdes created through thiseviction process.

    I would say they are by no means the only people who are unwelcoming to the police. I don’t know many people who are delighted to see them at their door….

    We all hope that we don’t have to see these families violently evicted…but this will be the result if more pressure isn’t put on the council to find a way to resolve this in a way that doesn’t involved forcing them out of their homes.

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  5. Doesnt GetThisMess says:

    I found your site by accident, and decided to leave a comment, even though I am sure it won’t be appreciated, and will probably be deleted.
    I admit that as a “non-brit” that I may not have all the facts to have a clear perspective on this whole issue, but it seems to me that when you sort out all the spin, hysteria and buzz phrases in the above commentary, it comes down to something very simple: legally vs. illegally defined activity. All the drama and cries of ‘racism’ are just a smokescreen to avoid looking at the bottom line (and reading that a group that calls itself ‘travellers” are fighting that they might have to move on and.. travel? seems rather contradictory no?)
    It’s very simple if you remove the hype–if these people actually own this land–and are following local laws and ordinances, let them alone. However if it is determined that they are squatting illegally on a piece of land-or have gone beyond the legal boundaries allowed them– they have no standing to claim it is ‘their home’, whether they are black, brown or plaid. It is THEY then who have put themselves and their children in this predicament, not the local taxpayers.
    And the taxpayers shouldn’t be blamed for being angry at having to foot the bill for millions of dollars for removing these people, especially when they themselves have to follow the rules. Neither are they responsible for the travellers’ chosen lifestyle, nor are they obligated to support it. Sound harsh? I don’t believe so, it’s simple fairness under the law, with no special treatment on either side. And if you clear away all the smoke and mirrors.. that is really the bottom line.

  6. bristolnoborders says:

    Thanks for you comment. We accept any comment that isn’t offensive even if we don’t agree. We also don’t believe that people’s nationality makes a difference to how valid their comment is.

    Dale Farm residents do own the land, and many of the plots do have planning permission. The difference between the applications that got permission and those that didn’t? A change in the political leadership of the local council – those who applied before the change got it, those who submitted later didn’t. This is why we can’t go with a simple view of ‘illegal’ and ‘legal’ in judging the rights and wrongs of a situation like this. We have to question who decides what is legal and what isn’t, who is in charge of making the laws, interpretting them and implementing them?

    Its a simple fact that the refusal rate for travellers applying for planning permission is massively higher that the average. Planning decisions are often made on the basis of politics and not on facts. So a huge supermarket can continue to make applications and pressure decision makers until they get the yes they want. Travellers and others with less access to power cannot. Lets not confused the law with fairness and justice.

    Taxpayers should indeed be angry that their money is being spent on such a pointless eviction. Currently the residents at Dale Farm are content with where they are living and cost the community very little. Should an eviction go ahead not only will it cost a fortune to tax payers, but the council will be obligated to spend money processing homelessness application and finding alternative accomodation (as they have to for all people made homeless).

    The fact is the eviction will cost millions of poundsandmakehundreds of people homeless all on the basis of a politically motivatedplanning decision. From my point of view this is wrong and unneccessary.

  7. Paul says:

    If alternative sites offered are unsuitable, the Council should seriously consider permitting the Dale Farm community to remain until their basic needs are met. Any other course of action would clearly be unreasonable and an unnecessary restriction on civil liberties under, the 1997 Harassment Act and ECHR article 8 and 1.1 where no other local authority would act in a similar way :-)

  8. Paul says:

    YES. Prejudice is still strong today, but different, thank God, from the extremes experienced elsewhere and in the past – largely thanx to the advocacy of Family, Friends and Travellers, the National Bargee Association and Community Law Partnerships. You are very right to challenge the ethnocentric media hype and to appeal in Court. Steady tigers…

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