Wednesday, 27 April 2011

BAILIFFS will face a human shield around Europe's largest illegal gypsy camp on eviction day.

By chris richards

BAILIFFS will face a human shield around Europe's largest illegal gypsy camp on eviction day.

The details emerged this week as more than 40 human rights activists descended on Dale Farm, in Crays Hill, to decide how to resist the planned £18 million eviction of up to 86 families who live on the site without planning permission.

Supporters decided on Saturday that a peaceful human shield at the entrance to the five-acre green belt encampment could be an effective tool in keeping Basildon District Council's bailiffs Constant & Co at bay.

Activists also received updates on the training of human rights monitors, who will be observing the eviction to see if human rights are being respected.

A banner emblazoned with "Constant & Co no pasaran!", the Spanish Civil War slogan meaning "they shall not pass", was later unfurled at the entrance to the site.

Meanwhile, the steps that Dale Farm's occupants have taken to fortify their homes also became clear, as evidenced by the masses of barbed wire that now cover fence posts and gates around the site.

Saturday's gathering was held to coincide with Zero Eviction Day, an event staged to raise awareness of the issues faced by gypsies around the world.

Traveller spokesman Grattan Puxon said: "There are many supporters who are prepared to join in a non-violent human shield.

"This is designed to make the eviction operation as difficult as possible because we feel that the eviction itself is an act of violence against those who just want to continue living in their homes."

Dale Farm resident Richard Sheridan is the president of the Gypsy Council, which supports gypsies throughout Britain.

Speaking on Saturday, he said: "We feel very comfortable with the support that people are giving us today.

"There are people here taking the adult approach in the 21st century.

"I am a British citizen and I am glad that we are finally getting a little bit of respect."

Mr Sheridan stressed he did not want any anarchists coming to Dale Farm to cause trouble, should an eviction go ahead.

"The pen is mightier than the sword," he said.

Mr Sheridan also said that allowing families to stay at Dale Farm could save the British taxpayer up to £200 million over the next decade.

Pointing to a report prepared by the Commission for Racial Equality in 2005, he said: "Keeping gypsies on the road costs £20 million a year with the new 20 per cent VAT.

"I am hoping to save the taxpayers of this country £200 million over the next ten years."

As supporters of Dale Farm talked through their next moves, resident Nora McCarthy, 31, said: "It is nice to know that we have the support.

"I hope this will make the council listen."

Basildon Borough Council has consistently stressed that it is not anti-gypsy and that it is clearing the site solely to rectify breaches of planning law.

The council has set aside up to £8 million to pay for its part of the operation, although it has yet to serve the travellers with an order giving them 28 days' notice of any forthcoming eviction.

Essex Police are currently in the process of applying for £10 million from the Government to pay for their role in the eviction.