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Monday, September 19, 2011

Countdown to D-Day: Travellers barricade themselves into Dale Farm ahead of tomorrow's eviction

By Duncan Macpherson

Supporters opposed to the eviction of travellers from Dale Farm in Essex have started building a wall in front of an entrance hours before bailiffs are due to clear the illegal site

Travellers facing eviction from the UK’s largest illegal site have started building a brick wall and barbed-wire barricades in an effort to keep the bailiffs at bay.

With less than 24 hours before bailiffs are due to begin the eviction of about 80 families living on Dale Farm, Essex, residents voiced a final plea for an alternative site as they endure a last-minute struggle to find somewhere to go.

The eviction follows a decade-long row over 51 unauthorised plots. Half of the site, which has planning consent, will remain.

As a wall goes up at Dale Farm, some residents, who say they have nowhere to go if they are evicted, fear their homes will be destroyed

As tensions rise some travellers have claimed they will only be leaving in 'body bags' as their children stood in front of the main gate to make one last desperate plea for the clearance to be halted.

Four-foot by three-feet posters of the children were unveiled and hung on the entrance.

Cathleen McCarthy, speaking for the travellers, said: 'The Prime Minster can stop this eviction and I am pleading from my heart stop this.

'He stood up and said he is a family man - where are his morals now? 'That's what I would like to say to the Prime Minister of this country - you have done this, shame on you, shame on you.

'You have children yourself, would you like your children to be chucked out of your beautiful, warm house?'

Last stand: Cathleen McCarthy (centre) appealed to Prime Minister David Cameron to stop the eviction

Final plea: 'Don't make us homeless' -The children of Dale Farm travellers have placed pictures of themselves at the gate

Mrs McCarthy called for the travellers to be given until November 21 to stay at Dale Farm, in order for two planning applications to be considered on pieces of land they own.

And although she declared children would be staying inside the barricade when the bailiffs arrive she added the majority of travellers would be locking themselves to their homes.

Another woman declared she would only be leaving Dale Farm 'in a body bag'.

But earlier today more and more families were seen removing their touring caravans from the site near the village of Crays Hill, Essex.

Many residents have temporarily moved caravans on to the neighbouring legal site.

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.

'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.

Protest poster: A resident explains why she thinks the eviction should not go ahead

'It's our home too': Children of Dale Farm urge for a final reprieve

'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.'

A spokesman for Basildon Council welcomed the last-minute change of heart from travellers.

He said: 'There is no problem with the travellers moving onto the legal pitches and we have spoken with them about this in the past and encouraged it.

'So long as it does not create a secondary planning issue through too many static homes or touring vans, then they will have permission for it. 'We would encourage it but it cannot be over populated.'

A caravan leaves Dale Farm today, ahead of the expected arrival of bailiffs acting on behalf of Basildon Council, and right, A young girl gestures as emotions run high

Basildon Council leader Tony Ball has insisted the majority of the public support the operation.

He said: 'I have received thousands of emails and letters and the vast majority say we are doing the right thing in enforcing the law.

'We will continue to work with the Dale Farm residents to find them suitable accommodation but we have been left with no option but to go ahead.”

An elevated view shows how the caravans have positioned themselves illegally on the land at Dale Farm

Supporters have gathered on the site and promise peaceful resistance. One, who gave her name as Marina, said there had been an influx in recent days.

She added: 'We are spending the day making sure everyone is organised and knows their role and that everybody knows their legal rights.'

John McCarthy, who has also lived on the site for 10 years, said: '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.'

There was a low-profile police presence outside the site today as bailiffs continued preparations on a field next door.



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