Eviction begins at UK's biggest illegal traveller site
Missiles were hurled at police and fires set as the clearance of Britain's biggest illegal travellers' site finally got under way Wednesday after a 10-year court battle.
Shortly before sunrise, police officers in riot gear entered the Dale Farm site outside the town of Basildon, southeast England, to begin clearing the six-acre (2.4 hectare) camp.
Some female residents were seen in tears as the police lines approached.
Police entered the camp from the back, bypassing the defences built up at the front entrance.
The residents have been joined by activists, many of whom wore blue jumpsuits and face masks as they took on the police.
Basildon Council, the local authority, has fought a decade-long battle with the Irish travellers, who own the land but lack planning permission to build on it.
The site comprises 51 unauthorised plots, on which caravans and some chalet-type houses were home to up to 400 people including many families and their children until several days ago.
Dale Farm resident Kathleen McCarthy 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."
Residents lost the final stage of their eviction battle on Monday when a judge at the Court of Appeal in London refused to give the travellers permission to make any further challenges to their eviction order.
Basildon Council wanted to start the eviction last month after a court victory but the travellers were able to delay the move until now using a series of legal avenues.
The high-profile campaign to block the eviction has attracted support from Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave and a former advisor to the United Nations.
The Dale Farm situation has also further highlighted the nomadic, largely ethnic Irish traveller communities in Britain, following a hugely popular television documentary series called "Big Fat Gypsy Weddings".
© 2011 AFP