DALE FARM SOLIDARITY PRESS RELEASE
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HEADLINE: Dale Farm residents voice final plea
Sunday 19 September
With 24 hours until the eviction of Dale Farm, residents voice a final plea for an alternative site to move onto as they face forced eviction from their homes. Members of the community, joined by local and international supporters, are preparing to defend the Traveller community that bought the former scrap yard in Essex a decade ago.
Many of the 87 families on the site have nowhere to go and are in a last minute struggle to make provisions for children and older people about to be thrown out of their homes when bailiffs Constant & Co, reputed for the aggressive and violent removal of Traveller families, move in on Monday.
The eviction plans, fought for ten years in numerous legal battles, have been widely condemned, including by the United Nations, Amnesty International and an all party parliamentary group. The plans are considered a breach of multiple rights of the families involved including the failure of authorities to find the community appropriate alternative accommodation.
Kathryn Flynn, mother of three and resident at Dale Farm for ten years said “I’m moving on to my uncle’s yard on the other side for tonight because I don’t want my children to go through this. I’m scared of what the bailiffs will do. They smash up our trailers – our homes. I don’t want my children to be in danger, so we’re moving them. But we’ve got nowhere to go after Monday. We don’t know what’s going to happen to us. Our children went to school for the last day on Friday. I don’t know what to tell them about tomorrow.”
Fears of the conduct of bailiffs are not unfounded. Video footage showing the bailiffs aggressively removing Travellers from their homes and destroying their possessions were highlighted by the Judge in the 2008 legal case . On Saturday 17 September the Council admitted that it was aware that Constant and Co were using the word ‘pikey’, classed as a racist term of abuse since 2007, to attract people to the company’s website .
Activists and residents have been preparing defences to hold the site. Many have a sense of wider responsibility to defend the rights of Travellers who have been consistently discriminated against for centuries. John McCarthy, a Dale Farm resident for ten years said: “I’m standing here for the rights of Travellers. I’m here baring my heart to the press every day because this has got to change. My children can’t go through what we went through. We’re treated worse than any other community. They think it’s ok to break up a whole community and to throw us all on the roadside. To tell us we can’t come into shops, to pick on our kids, to treat us like we’re hardly human. We need to stand up against this prejudice. We need the right to live in peace. It’s not much to ask, to be allowed to live on an old scrap yard as a community.”
The Council has declared that they will begin their assault on Dale Farm on Monday morning.
Notes to Editors
 Judge Justice Collins comments in 2008 (1) “I have seen video footage which shows how the bailiffs employed by the council acted. The conduct was unacceptable and the evictions were carried out in a fashion which inevitably would have led to harm of those affected.”
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Despite years of legislation designed to tackle racism and inequality, Gypsies and Travellers continue to be failed by society, argues Lord Eric Avebury, chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Gypsy Roma Travellers. “There is still so much viciousness directed against Gypsies and Travellers,” he says. “They are treated in a way that people wouldn’t dream of treating black people, for example. It just seems to be an acceptable form of racism.”
Government support of Basildon’s campaign to oust 86 families from Dale Farm – it has promised £4.65m towards the £18m cost of the eviction – puts the UK closer to France and Italy in terms of unwillingness to tolerate similarly marginalised communities such as the Roma, he adds. “If the government is uncompromising, then of course that is a policy signal for the rest of the UK. Ending up with a situation where these people are chased from one town to another is not a valid government policy.”
“They want us to say we don’t want to be Gypsies any more, we want to be like you – but if we lose this we lose a history, a way of life, a whole culture,” says Senga, looking out of her caravan window at the site. “We are not asking for any handouts, just the right to live on the land we have paid for. We are such a proud people. It’s hard for us to say we need help – but for the love of God we need help now.”
The intervention of the UN in support of the Travellers, along with local churches and other outside agencies, has brought international media to Dale Farm, meaning the evictions will be closely scrutinised. But that will come as little comfort to the people here.
“Most of us were born in Britain, but we seem to have no rights at all. It feels like we are the American Indians in a cowboy film. Instead of ‘don’t go near those Indians, they’ll scalp you,’ it’s ‘don’t go near those gypsies, they’ll steal everything you’ve got and threaten your way of life,’” said Elby Culligan.
One nine-year-old boy added: “the teachers at school keep crying. My aunties keep crying. We’ll just have to hide when the bailiffs come. Then they’ll go away again and leave us be.”
Last night the number of non-Travellers going into Camp Constant had grown, and several could be seen preparing banners and a makeshift barricade of pallets and metal poles at the entrance road to Dale Farm. Rubber tyres were being piled up around the camp.
A police helicopter stayed overhead monitoring activities. Police were also posted at local train stations, looking out for any known anarchist troublemakers who might be turning up ahead of the evictions.
But if a siege mentality was settling over Camp Constant, the Travellers all insisted they did not wish to see the protests turn violent.
“It’s good of them [supporters] to come, but we”ll be looking out for them overstepping the mark,” said one man as he shook his fist at the helicopter.