Travellers put up barricades as bailiffs prepare for eviction
The final bitter exchanges in the decade-long fight to clear the UK's largest Traveller site will play out this morning, with bailiffs moving in on Dale Farm in Essex as human rights observers camp inside.
As 150 activists inside the six-acre site were preparing makeshift walls, barricades and barbed wire obstacles, lawyers mounted a last desperate challenge against the eviction, set to cost £18m (€13m).
But with Travellers remaining defiant of a council eviction order, a flashpoint with bailiffs -- who were preparing for today's 8am eviction in an adjacent field -- appeared imminent.
"A number of caravans have been moved for the sake of children and older people but the adults are getting very militant," Grattan Puxon, an activist and spokesman for the Travellers, said last night. "I'd say we have about 150 activists here now."
As some 87 families were spending a nervy final night in their homes, lawyers were frantically trying to develop a court action against Basildon Council, claiming it had circumvented procurement procedures in appointing bailiffs.
Separately, the High Court is today due to rule on whether the Travellers should, on appeal, be granted a temporary injunction, blocking the evictions.
Activists said both actions are unlikely to work, and Basildon Council said the evictions would begin as planned.
A spokeswoman from the Dale Farm Solidarity Campaign said many residents had temporarily moved caravans on to the neighbouring legal site.
"The only Travellers now left are the ones that have nowhere to go," she said. Kathryn Flynn, a mother of three and a resident at Dale Farm for 10 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," she said. "I'm scared of what the bailiffs will do."
Mother-of-four Michelle Sheridan (34) said she would be keeping her children with her, adding that many of the site's residents were single women and elderly people.
She said: "People here are scared and terrified. I have nowhere to go and I don't know what I'm going to do."
Last night, such an outcome seemed inevitable. (©Independent News Service)