VIDEO: Dale Farm evictions: Irish Travellers and supporters clash with bailiffs at UK site
POLICE have been forced to say they are in control of the Dale Farm site after protestors and travellers clashed with bailiffs and riot officers as the eviction got under way today.
Officers in riot gear entered Dale Farm, near Basildon in Essex, after breaking down a rear fence just after 7am, prompting angry confrontations.
The move came as police and bailiffs held discussions, described by supporters as a distraction, at the main gate.
Essex Police said: "Officers have this morning entered the Dale Farm site following intelligence which informed the commanders that anyone entering the site was likely to come up against violence and a serious breach of the peace would occur.
"Intelligence received indicated protesters had stockpiled various items with the intent of using these against bailiffs and police.
"The first officers on the site were attacked with missiles being thrown, including rocks and liquids. These officers were fully equipped to deal with this situation."
At least 50 officers led the operation to clear the site.
Female residents ran to their homes and broke down in tears as the police line advanced.
Supporters quickly erected barricades inside the site as police held the line, securing the rear area.
Electricity supplies have been cut. Supporters say this has turned off crucial medical equipment belonging to elderly residents.
Supporters chanted: "F*** the police, no justice, no peace."
They also set fire to a caravan placed across the street inside Dale Farm which was later removed.
Paramedics were escorted on to the site by supporters to treat resident Nora Egan, who claims she suffered back injuries in a confrontation with police.
She said: "This is being led by the police, there is no sign of bailiffs."
Margaret Sheridan also claimed she was injured. "They're rough and there is no reasoning with them."
Kathleen McCarthy, a Dale Farm resident, said: "The memory of Dale Farm will weigh heavily on Britain for generations - we are being dragged out of the only homes we have in this world.
"Our entire community is being ripped apart by Basildon Council and the politicians in Government."
Lily Hayes, a human rights observer, said: "Basildon Council are violating the court order by smashing in the walls of a fully legal plot on the Dale Farm site. They are also acting unnecessarily brutally."
Basildon Council leader Tony Ball condemned the violence.
He said: "The premeditated and organised scenes of violence that we have already seen, with protesters throwing rocks and bricks, threatening police with iron bars and setting fire to a caravan, are shocking.
"These are utterly disgraceful scenes and demonstrate the fact some so-called supporters were always intent on violence.
"Nonetheless we are going to press on with this operation with our partners in a safe, dignified and humane way and will uphold the law."
One protester with a scarf covering her face said: "The police gave many promises to the community that they would only be here as law enforcers to prevent harm coming to bailiffs and harm coming to travellers.
"In fact, the police have come in and caused harm to the travellers, so they have hugely let down the community here."
Resident Kathleen McCarthy claimed three women had been injured by the police. One suffered facial injuries, she said.
Mrs McCarthy added: "We planned to lock on to our homes and resist eviction but not for violence. The police provoked violence with the way they came in.
"We will do our best to stay but it looks like we have no hope."
Bailiffs remained outside the main gate, which was largely intact.
One evicted resident said: "I'm so angry and dismayed that people are actually doing this. The rest of the world is also persecuting people who choose to live differently from the so-called norm.
"They (police and bailiffs) shouldn't be doing it. What I'm hearing is that they are not being as gentle as they would like to believe. People have been pushed over and have hurt themselves.
"You can see from their body language they are not gentle people and hopefully a lot of that is on camera."
Farmers in the area surrounding Dale Farm have placed hay bales and farming equipment at the entrances to their land to prevent residents getting in following the eviction, local residents said.
One said: "They have begun to do this in the last couple of weeks. It looks like it is to stop evicted residents getting on to the farms."
Police have begun removing protesters from the 40ft high scaffolding on the main gate.
Several masked protesters have been taken away in handcuffs. About 25 protesters remain on the rampart and officers are removing them one by one.
Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell said: "As we witness the sad and difficult eviction of the travelling community from Dale Farm, let us pray that it happens peacefully and that no one is hurt or injured.
"But let us also remember that this eviction does not solve the problem but moves it somewhere else. These families are going to have to sleep somewhere tonight.
"What is needed is a national solution to provide travelling communities with stable, permanent and, if they wish, settled sites so that their culture and community can be maintained and flourish within the law."
Constituency Tory MP John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) said: "It's unfortunate that some protesters have resorted to violence. The police were right to take control of the site's clearance.
"The protesters were there at the request of the travellers and I urge the travellers now to ask the protesters to leave peacefully and lead by example and leave themselves.
"From what I have seen, the police have acted fairly and responsibly. Don't forget some protesters were throwing rocks, carrying iron bars and threatening violence.
"The police have been restrained but at the end of the day, the police have got to defend themselves to ensure there is no violence."
Mr Ball said: "When I became a councillor, it was never in my mind and never did I want to preside over an operation where we saw riot police on the streets of Basildon.
"But I am absolutely clear that after 10 years of negotiation to try and find a peaceful solution to this that actually what we're doing is the right thing.
"I think we have seen from the level of violence put up by the protesters this morning that it was absolutely right that the police led the operation."
He thanked the police and congratulated them on the professional way they had carried out the operation.
"I now call upon the travellers to ask the protesters to stand down so that the bailiffs can carry on with their lawful work of clearing the site.
"I am still hopeful, and actually determined, that when it comes to site clearance of the travellers - and we know what we can do on certain sites - that this will be carried out in a safe and as dignified a manner as possible."
He said scenes of violence were nothing anyone wanted to see, but the police and the council had acted proportionately.
An ambulance service spokesman said one resident had been taken to hospital and another was receiving treatment. Four others refused treatment.
Resident Cornelius Sheridan, who is in his 50s and seriously ill, has been taken to hospital. Supporters said this was because the power supply to his defibrillator had been cut.
An ambulance service spokesman confirmed that one resident had been taken to hospital and another treated by paramedics. Four others refused treatment.
Police have used a cherry picker to lift five officers in riot gear to the top of the main scaffold gate.
After initial talks with protesters on top of the gate, the officers lowered themselves on to the platform and began removing bags and other equipment.
At least four protesters remain on top of the gate, where they have been sleeping, and must be removed before the structure can be dismantled.
Protesters chanted and tried to prevent officers climbing on to the platform. They appeared to tie a chain around the cherry picker lift, attaching it to the scaffold.
Police lifted a cage up to the platform. The first protester who was chained to the scaffold was removed by three officers and taken to the ground in the cage.
A further two protesters were cut free and lowered to the ground at 2.50pm. One of them, a woman, shouted "No more racist evictions" as she was detained.
Another, Jake Fulton, said: "They're torturing people up there. We are trying to resist peacefully."
Seven supporters have been removed from the tower, which is now empty. At least four more are chained beneath the main platform.