August 22, 2019

Violence as police clear UK traveller site

A traveller woman who needs to travel a bit further away from that burning caravan.

Police in riot gear have moved in to clear Britain’s biggest illegal travellers’ site, using tasers against iron-bar wielding protesters who bombarded them with rocks and urine.

Officers broke down fences at the rear of the Dale Farm site in Essex while bailiffs began to smash low-rise brick walls with sledgehammers at its entrance as diggers stood ready, heralding the end of a decade-long battle between local authorities and the traveller community.

About 400 travellers from the site near Basildon after one of Britain’s most contentious and bitter planning rows in recent years.

The council said talks to bring about a peaceful resolution had been exhausted, and that the travellers and their supporters left on the six-acre site had no intention of cooperating with the clearance operation.

The authorities said the police led the action because they had received intelligence that serious disorder and violence was likely and potential weapons had been stockpiled.

“I am absolutely clear that after 10 years of negotiation to try and find a peaceful solution to this, that actually what we are doing is the right thing,” Basildon Council leader Tony Ball told reporters from his urine proof bunker.

“I think we’ve seen from the level of violence put up by the protesters this morning that it was absolutely right that the police led the operation.”

A few protesters wearing balaclavas and hoods threw missiles, including lumps of concrete and unknown powders, at the police from behind flimsy wooden barricades and rubber rings while flames and smoke went up from a burning caravan.

Essex Police said taser guns had been used against one protester and seven people had been arrested. Paramedics treated six people, with one woman going to hospital with a back injury.

“The only premeditated violence has come from the police – they knew exactly what they were doing when they started beating and tasering people,” said Mary Sheridan, a Dale Farm resident who is now staying on a relative’s lawful plot.

Superintendent Trevor Roe said the situation was now calm and bailiffs were clearing the site. Asked about allegations of police violence, he said: “I’m sure they will claim that.”

He added: “Serious violence was offered to two officers and their response was to protect themselves by deploying taser. Tasers are not generally deployed in public order situations but in this case the officers were threatened directly.”

The site’s residents had won a temporary reprieve last month when the High Court issued an injunction stopping officials from clearing the land, but their battle came to an end when they lost a final legal hearing last week.

Travellers say the clearance is a breach of their human rights, targeting a vulnerable group whose choice of lifestyle does not fit in with the mainstream.

The local council argues it is a planning dispute, with the travellers breaking the law by illegally building on the green belt, the band of countryside around London intended to stop urban sprawl.

Many locals had complained of litter and noise from the site. Basildon council said it had tried to find the travellers alternative sites, but talks had been exhausted.

A traveller community is a bit like prisons. The community doesn’t mind them but not next door thank you very much.

In an ancient land like England, there are all sorts of ways of life and traditions that tend to get smashed on the anvil of local government’s bureaucracy.