Update Thursday, below:
Some of the more 'moderate' comments on the Daily Mail 'debate' page:
"send in the water cannon. many of them haven't had a wash for ages."
"ship 'em out once and for all & send 'em back to Ireland."
A statement from Amnesty International said yesterday that Basildon Council was conducting a “forced eviction on an unprecedented scale” at Dale Farm.
Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:
“Some commentators and politicians have portrayed the enforcement action by Basildon Council at Dale Farm as a site clearance, and not a forced eviction. This is misleading and inaccurate.
“What is in its early stages at Dale Farm is a forced eviction which will leave several families homeless. The families being evicted have been failed by the Council at every turn; in inadequate consultation, insufficient negotiation and in the woeful failure to offer culturally adequate alternative accommodation, to which they are entitled.
“The use of force by police and bailiffs must always be strictly proportionate, necessary, appropriate and an absolute last resort.”
Here is a view of the human impact on the residents of Dale Farm:
From the Independent Catholic News:
"Father Dan Mason, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Good Council church in nearby Wickford, spoke with ICN this evening.
He said: "I was on the site this afternoon to visit my parishioners and see how they were doing. It was very traumatic. One woman (Norah)was injured. They told me she was pushed against a wall and kicked. She sustained a back injury. That's what I was told. She was taken to hospital but they couldn't take her because there were no beds. Its all completely surreal. I know that site so well.The families are so hospitable. We sat in a caravan having a cup of tea. It felt surreal. Seeing riot police everywhere, helicopters, protesters, it looked like a war zone.
Fr Dan said Bishop Thomas MacMahon and other church leaders have been very supportive of the Dale Farm families. He said: "We've agreed with other churches that our halls will be available - to provide a safe space especially for the elderly and children. But I don't know if they will take it up. They are afraid of being separated. I told them we are always here for them. One woman said to me: 'We rely on the church'.
When news came that the eviction was going to go ahead, on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the parish began a Novena, which ended on the Feast of Our Lady of Good Council, (sic) Fr Dan said. There is a grotto to Our Lady outside the church..
Fr Dan said he was concerned that because the appeals have gone on for so long, the police are being so heavy handed. He said: "These people have nowhere to go. Many of them came here after they were evicted from other places from Boreham Wood. "
In case readers don't know, Borehamwood is just on the edge of Barnet. As Barnet refused, for 26 years, in blatant defiance of the law, to provide any pitch for travelling people, this sort of neighbouring site would have been the only refuge for such people locally. (And of course please note there was no big mouthed Tory MP or councillor prepared to condemn our council for law breaking as easily as they do the gypsy and travelling communities trying to protect their homes).
In 2005, the gypsy traveller site in Borehamwood, Twin Oaks, was cleared by the same eviction 'specialists', Constant and Co.
According to the Advocacy website http://www.advocacynet.org/resource/466 :
"Twin Oaks, at Borehamwood, location of the Elstree film studios, consisted of just twelve small plots and was the subject of repeated planning appeals and negotiations. These were broken off unilaterally by Hertsmere District Council which went instead for the physical force option. The day deliberately chosen was that on which Mrs Ann Egan, a wheelchair invalid, was due to go to hospital. Her chalet was torn down over her head and her two wheelchairs crushed. A pregnant mother was thrown on the ground and an elderly man kicked and beaten."
In April 2010 a letter was sent to the Essex police authority by representatives of the Dale Farm Community in which reference is made to allegations regarding previous evictions:
"These actions, including an eviction the same month at Twin Oaks, near Borehamwood, by Hertsmere Council, drew criticism from the High Court and the Council of Europe, which condemned the employment of Constant and Co. as inappropriate and called for a review of the employment of such companies in this field of work.
A report prepared by the Council of Europe in 2006 concerning Roma and Travellers states that “evictions have become worse since the coming into prominence of the private bailiff company, Constant & Co. Mr Constant's firm has earned millions of euro moving families on and carrying out large scale evictions from land owned by Gypsies. One example was the eviction by Constant for Chelmsford Borough Council of 20 families from their own Meadowlands Caravan Park, in January 2004. In the course of this, conducted with the help of riot police, Kathy Buckland's mobile-home was burned, another caravan burned, much property needlessly destroyed”
You might be interested to know there is, or was, a tradition that when a gypsy child is buried, he or she is buried on the edge of a traditional stopping place, with an acorn in each hand, and from the acorns grow twin oaks, a marker for grieving parents to return to. There is a song and a poem referring to this custom written by Martin Taylor, a musician related, like Mrs Angry, to the travelling Stewart family.
The remaining travellers left Dale Farm today.
As they went, a reporter asked Tony Ball, the Tory leader of Basildon Council, what had been acheived, in his view, other than the purchase of a former scrapyard for the sum of around £20 million of tax payers' money? 'Fairness', was the answer.
It seems to me that the only ones to gain from the bloody, bitter end to the Dale Farm are the bailiffs, the company Constant & Co, who make a very nice profit out of throwing people out of their homes.
On their website, this company boasts of its reputation and successes in dealing with evictions. It even has a section dealing with 'Travellers and Squatters', as if they were naturally both inherently criminal categories of people. The company advises:
"Court proceedings involve delay that can be extremely expensive. An occupation over several weeks at a trading site or shopping mall can result in a disastrous loss of business, but there is a fast alternative course of action that we utilise regularly and very successfully for many high-profile clients. Our bailiffs take legal possession of an occupied site usually within 24 to 48 hours of being instructed. Police are informed and called upon as necessary. We arrange attendance of tow trucks and cleansing contractors if needed."
Perhpas that should read ethnic cleansing contractors? And as the company says - why bother with the process of the law, and court proceedings, when the boys from Constant & Co can sort it out for you? See above for some references from satisfied customers.
We can only suppose that at one point council leader Mr Ball imagined that taking a hard line with the travellers at Dale Farm would be a way of endearing his administration to the voters of Basildon. To be fair, finding a scapegoat on which to focus the latent bigotry and animosity of the electorate has usually worked in the past, with a certain type of voter.
Unfortunately, the Dale Farm story just grew and grew, and not in the direction Mr Ball might have forseen. This particular eviction, and all the media focus which has been directed on the story, has proved to be of far more significance than perhaps anyone could have predicted. There may even be, at last, the beginning of a wider recognition that here, in Britain in the twenty first century, we still have the capacity for institutionalised persecution of people on the margins of our society, and a shocking tolerance of the free expression of open racism towards an ethnic minority group, and that it is an evil thing, and something we have to eradicate.
Well, that is what I would like to think, anyway. But then I am, despite all appearances to the contrary, an eternal optimist.