Goodbye, Dale Farm

We were there to watch the bailiffs and police banish activists and get berated by gypsies.

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20 October 2011, 6:45pm

Yesterday morning, a team of bailiffs and police finally moved in on Dale Farm and set about evicting the traveller families who had lived there for decades. The travellers weren't so thrilled, and neither were the protesters they've been living alongside for the last couple of months. One of the activists was tasered by police and spent a little while jerking around on the floor, before detaching the hooks and fleeing into a crowd of people.

Elsewhere on the site, near Basildon in Essex, caravans burned, activists chained themselves to scaffolding and the media looked on with their cameras and a glum fascination. I was among them, having headed down after the morning's confrontations to find police and bailiffs using a cherry-picker to pry protesters from their position in what they'd dubbed 'the crow's nest'.

Like this. Some of the protesters had decided to make it difficult for the authorities by chaining their necks to scaffold rails with bike locks. The thinking behind this ploy was that the eviction squad wouldn't try to drag someone from the gantry if they knew they were likely to strangle or cripple them.

They were right, and, faced with the possibility of killing protesters in full-view of the UK media, the bailiffs resorted to deafening the activists with angle grinders instead.

And, when the power tools failed, Inspector Cheesedick was called in to stink the furious proles into submission.

As the majestic, swooping, airborne arm of John Law moved forebodingly from one chained activist to the next, the protesters below started chanting things like, "Let them sleep, safe and sound/ get those pigs back on the ground!" Numerous "pigs might fly" zingers were lulzed out by the hostile audience, and protesters would make a point of noting police ID numbers aloud. "1261 just called someone a skinny cow!", "2259 you're a little pussy'ole!", etc.

While this was happening, more and more police were arriving. Essex Police were followed by Welsh Police, all of them paid £20 an hour to just stand around getting called things like "a pack of mice!" by elderly gypsy women. I guess expenses like these are what the public are missing when they try to figure out how this eviction could possibly cost the government as much as £17.5million. "London was burning and you peed your pants!" someone screamed, unaware that his volley of tame abuse had just taken £250 straight out of taxpayers' pockets.

All day a Spanish Guy was shouting, "Stop using violence, shame on English Police!" His hopelessly vague anti-capitalist ranting seemed to consist of little more than the words "fat cats", "David Cameron" and "Tony Blair" used interchangeably. People kept asking him why he was there.

No longer bound to the scaffold rails, protesters nevertheless wished to remain on the barricade. This was when we started to hear screaming followed by long silences. Rumours started spreading that the police were tasering people on the barricade. This seems unlikely, as people who are having fits don't tend to possess much balance, and may have fallen to the ground below. Tasering people to death is not something the police would have wanted to have done in front of the thronging blabbermouths of the British press.

Things momentarily kicked into action when these guys, just cut free from their bike locks by police, leapt away from the filth onto this electricity pylon and threatened to electrocute themselves. Unfortunately for these wannabe martyrys, the police had cut all mains power into the site hours ago. Unlucky, guys!

As the remaining travellers protested by burning whatever the already departed families had left behind, the activists were lead off past the media.

Allies on the ground cheered as this protester gave the press corps a wink on the way to the prison van. With protesters now running out of ideas, an eerie calm came over the site as they regrouped in the "legal area" to discuss a plan of action.

This plan of action seemed to consist of hastily drawing up banners and milking the photo opps provided to them by the huge turnout of journalists. It could be argued that the arrival of outside protestors and growing media attention has exacerbated the situation at Dale Farm. It seemed that the police and baliffs' dismantling of the iconic barricade was symbolic, rather than essential, for gaining access, as they managed to get in through the back in the morning and the media had no problems moving around the site all day.

As things got more boring, I mooched off around the site, gradually getting more depressed at the growing evidence of the lives that had been left behind. With 18,000 gypsies living in the UK, and 3,000 living illegally, the eviction of Dale Farm could be considered as a microcosm for heavy-handed changes in government policy.

The fact that a planning dispute in Essex has been brought to the attention of the UN speaks volumes as for what may be ahead. For their part, the Tories have been arguing that the eviction is not racial discrimination or ethnic cleansing, but about enforcing the law. I guess it's tough to draw any distinction between the two when the law they're enforcing essentially criminalises an ethnic group's way of life.