Violence flared as police moved to evict travellers from Dale Farm today. According to The Guardian‘s liveblog, residents and protesters sustained injuries during clashes with riot police armed with batons and Tasers. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Essex police said officers had been attacked with missiles.
Court battle. Residents of the Dale Farm camp, the largest travellers’ site in Britain, have been locked in a legal battle with Basildon Council for the past ten years. On Monday, the travellers were refused leave to appeal against the eviction order. According to the Dale Farm Solidarity website, supporters are currently attempting to get an emergency injunction to halt the eviction. Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave has leant her support to the campaign, visiting the camp in August.
Uphold the law. Writing for The Daily Mail, Simon Heffer argued that the eviction is a question of upholding the law, not discrimination: “The inhabitants of the farm own the land. They do not, however, have planning permission to build on it. Basildon Council is seeking to enforce the law, as it has a statutory duty to do”, he said.
Not fair. Charlie Alderwick was less sure on an Independent blog, calling the eviction “an act with highly dubious motivations, questionable legality and a staggering £18.5m price tag.” Alderwick said that 90% of planning applications by travellers are rejected, set against a national average of 20% rejection: “Planning law is evidently not administered without duly accommodating ethnic prejudice. It’s a problem that has escaped the attention of the right-wing press”, he wrote.
Media bias? Writing on The Guardian‘s Politics blog, Michael White questioned the polarised media coverage of Dale Farm: “I worry when the version I hear on the BBC or sometimes read in the Guardian or Observer is so much at odds with the account I read in the Daily Mail and elsewhere”, he said. White took a balanced view, saying that while he felt sympathy for the travelling community, he was also concerned that non-travelling local residents were not being heard by the press.
Voices unheard. Germaine Greer agreed in The Daily Telegraph: “The case for the travellers can be learnt from a dozen websites, including one run by Amnesty International; but we hear little or nothing of the grievances of the non-traveller population of Crays Hill”, she said. Greer argued that the lack of integration between travelling and settled communities causes resentment and misunderstandings on both sides.
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