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It made global headlines but after an extremely expensive violent and destructive eviction what's happened to the travellers at Dale Farm?
Although a few families have moved and are staying with relatives to escape the stress of the eviction and the emotional turmoil of seeing their homes gone and their land destroyed, most of the families have returned to Dale Farm. While the neat row of caravans lining entrance of the farm, causes many of the travellers to reminisce of days gone by when they would park in lay-bys and on the traditional droves and, yes, life appears to be returning to normal, the kids are at school, trailers are being cleaned, meals being cooked all to background buzz of the generators. On land adjacent to the evicted area which is also a legal traveller site, and was not affected by the action, many of the occupants there have taken in their neighbours.
Except that previously these families had their own small plots of land spread over the six acre area which now resembles war torn Beirut. The scale of destruction is hideous. Where there were once roads there are now deep furrows - most of the plots have been excavated down to the water table. Mounds of earth and rubble (bunding) 6-10ft high surrounds the perimeter of the farm and encloses each plot preventing any attempt at access, and just in case any residents feel able to overcome these barriers an injunction is in place to prevent the placing of caravans on these plots. Not only this, but an access road that was supposed to be left for the remaining five plots has been dug up and turned over with a deep furrow running down the middle, leaving only a perilously thin walkway for the residents to use.
Every 48 hours, council officials visit to check that the paperwork relating to the injunction is still there pinned to the fence. Each day the local community support officers visit. The residents would of course prefer they didn't, but fear the repercussions if they prevent the cops from accessing their land.
As well as coping with the loss of their land, the residents face a continual hate campaign from the local rag, the racist ECHO has been trying to dig the dirt up on the families, even sending reporters over to Ireland to try and locate any land or property that the travellers and their extended families may own.
On top of this, disgruntled local residents unhappy that the travellers are still there have continued their persecution against the families in a continued attempt to encourage them to leave.
Basildon Council proudly announced that the eviction bill had cost £4million less then expected, but the police have still to finalise their costs – one source claimed that the officers' accommodation bill alone was £5,000 a night. Costs will soon creep up. A further £1.8million has been set aside for further court action challenges and enforcement action on the neighbouring legal site.
Obviously Tony Ball is not happy that many of the families moved 200m next door, staying with either their relatives or on empty plots. He has continually made threats that these plots will also face eviction if they do not ask the displaced families to leave.
Rumours are rife with the Daily Fail reporting that the residents have been warned that each family must pay £80,000 towards the eviction cost. It's obvious that the council can't wait to get their hands on the land that was once Dale Farm, with a source stating that the land will probably become a council asset possibly being turned into allotments. How long have they been planning this outcome..?
This is one of the real issues that got lost in the media hype surrounding Dale Farm; land and our rights to own it, work it and live off of it. Land is a crucial issue, as are planning procedures. Land is power and when we are lucky enough to get hold of some we need to protect it otherwise the authorities will do all they can to take it back again.
To support the Dale Farm crew and other travellers, get in touch with the Traveller Solidarity Network: firstname.lastname@example.org. The TSN are holding a meeting for networking and action planning on Sunday 18th December at 10am in London – see http://london.indymedia.org/events/11238 for details.
There is also phone blockade of Constant and Co on Monday 19th of December at 11am for an hour. As many people as possible need to repeatedly call in to try and block their phone lines as a solidarity action for the residents of Dale Farm and those arrestees who are required to make bail on this date. Call phone lines 01234 340091 or 01908 374374 or fax lines 01234 301299 or01908 370073. Emails: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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