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From The Socialist newspaper, 7 September 2011

Stop the Dale Farm evictions

Dave Murray, Basildon Socialist Party

Since 31 August residents of 52 "unauthorised" plots at Dale Farm Travellers' site in Essex are under threat of forcible eviction, which Basildon council say will take place after 19 September.

Water and electricity supplies to the site are to be cut off, and roads around the site are to be closed to "non-residents" by the police.

Senior council officials have set up a "war room" in Basildon Town Hall from which they will direct an operation involving a small army of bailiffs and police officers whose sole aim is to render several hundred people homeless.

If past evictions in other areas are anything to go by then many of these people will also be left destitute as their homes and personal effects may be destroyed during the eviction.

According to the local Tories, who run the council, they are taking this action to protect the green belt. This is laughable given that the disputed part of the site was formerly used as a scrap yard. And the Con-Dem government is attempting to slash planning regulation, putting the green belt at the mercy of profit-hungry developers.

The Tories' concern for the environment will also be news to hundreds of residents of Basildon New Town who have protested in recent months at the sale of public green space - including playing fields and children's play areas - for housing development.

It is more likely that the Tories are pandering to what they perceive to be widespread prejudice against Travellers. So confident are they of this that Tory leader Tony Ball pledged to resign if the evictions, costing 18 million, were not carried out.

This is not a local issue, but the result of government policy since 1995 when councils were relieved of the duty to provide sites for Travellers by the 1995 Criminal Justice Act.

In theory, Travellers were to buy land and apply for planning permission to set up their own sites.

In practice, 90% of such applications have been refused, with most local authorities taking the hard-nosed approach of shutting down unofficial sites and moving families on.

Residents of the Dale Farm site have pledged to resist the evictions; not least because the alternative would be to rely on the tender mercies of the Homeless Persons Act.

They are joined by a group of activists who have set up "Camp Constant" at the entrance to the site as a human rights monitoring base. Dale Farm Solidarity is appealing for support in maintaining a round the clock presence, as well as organising activity days on Saturdays.

On Saturday 10 September at 1pm there will be a march from nearby Wickford railway station to the site in protest at the evictions.

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In The Socialist 7 September 2011:

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