simple message at site entrance
On Saturday, some 90 families at Dale Farm, the UK's largest Traveller community, were hand-delivered a final notice of eviction, giving families until midnight on August 31 to abandon their homes, or face their entire community being bulldozed. While some live in caravans, many live in small bungalows which they own, and cannot be easily moved.
The central government and Basildon Council have set aside over £18m for the eviction battle that could last three weeks. It will be the biggest clearance of its kind involving the ploughing up of 54 separate plots created on a former scrap-yard purchased by the Travellers ten years ago.
Dale Farm is only a 30 minute train ride from London, and hundreds of people have pledged to join residents in nonviolent resistance to the destruction of Dale Farm. The residents of Dale Farm have encouraged their supporters to establish a base at Dale Farm, Camp Constant, to resist this eviction and house human rights monitors.
On Saturday August 27th a weekend of Traveller history and celebration together with practical eviction resistance training will be held. There will also be training for legal observers and human rights monitors. Supporters are welcome to stay with families or in tents.
The Travellers have been supported by the Irish Chaplaincy, the Churches and many human rights groups. In November last year, Bishop Thomas McMahon from Brentwood Diocese and Anglican Bishop Laurie Green of Bradwell, paid a pastoral visit to the camp with Sr Catherine Reilly and Wickford parish priest Fr Dan Mason, who minister to many of the families.
The Bishops talked with residents about their situation and prayed with the bereaved family of John Flynn, a leading campaigner in the battle to remain at the site, who died suddenly earlier in the week. Prior to the visit, the two churchmen toured the local Crays Hill Primary School, which is attended by many of the Traveller children. The Bishops, who were very impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of staff at the school, talked to some of the children and listened to them read.
“We are particularly concerned that breaking up this long-standing community and its way of life will be a serious trauma for the children, who have stability and support at the excellent Crays Hill Primary School,” said Bishop Thomas.
He also praised the Travellers' strong faith. Each family keeps a shrine where they pray regularly. Bishop Laurie said: “It is certainly a privilege in our ministry to support the Traveller community and to work for more understanding on all sides. We really enjoyed the company of such lovely children and we will be keeping Crays Hill School, the children and their families very much in our prayers.”
Bishop Thomas added: “Alongside the humanitarian concerns, we have to ask if an extremely expensive operation to evict the Travellers is a good use of public money in these straitened times.”
Please check http://dalefarm.wordpress.com for further updates.