May 10, 2011 : Dale Farm prepares for resistance as eviction looms
Basildon Borough council seems determined to evict Europes only traveller-owned village at Dale Farm, despite cross party and international support for what is also Englands largest traveller community. Despite the fact that the farm has been legally owned by the Sheridan clan since the 1970s, Basildon Council's Development Control Committee in June 2005 recommended that millions be spent paying private companies to bulldoze part of the site and retrospectively return the land to greenbelt.
On 15th March 2011 Basildon Council voted 28 to 10 to clear 86 families from Dale Farm at Crays Hill. This leaves the possibility of a 28 day eviction notice hanging over the 100 or so families at the farm. Under siege for ten years Dale Farm has come to represent the fight for Britain's 350,000 travellers to maintain their traditional way of life in the face of draconian legislation and corporate interests.
In the face of the threat of removal from the company Constance and Co, the so called Gypsy specialist bailiffs who will receive millions for their efforts, residents have erected defences, including scaffolding towers, bar bed-wire and chicane-barriers. The 20 million bill for the ongoing policing and eviction stands in stark contrast to the budget cuts that have seen a 2.3 million deficit leading to the loss of a hundred council jobs and over 500,000 from its disabled services.
A delegation from an all party parliamentary group which, together with an Irish Embassy representative, visited Dale Farm two weeks ago has recommended that fellow MPs back efforts to find alternative land for those facing eviction. Representatives from all three major UK Political parties have also called for the planned eviction to be scrapped.
Campaigners however are gearing up for a possible month of direct action to save the farm once the eviction order is served and parliamentary objection waived aside. The end of April saw a series of info meetings around the country in which new legal observers were trained and ready to join those already pledged through the Essex University Human Rights Clinic. Further meetings galvanized community and antifascist groups to prepare for the struggle ahead with upwards of a thousand people prepared to defend Camp Constance as it has become known against the police, bailiffs and bulldozers.