The liquidation of the Dale Farm gypsy settlement is a case of localised ethnic cleansing camouflaged with the language of protecting the Green Belt.
On Wednesday 19 October 2011 after several appeals and much dithering in the courts – in which Britain’s judges prioritised planning law over human rights – the forceful eviction of gypsies from the Dale Farm settlement began.
On the first day, the settlement, weakly defended by residents and non-violent direct action activists, was attacked at day break by columns of riot police. Electric stun guns (tasers) were offensively deployed on two occasions. Once the residents and their supporters had been subdued, the bailiffs moved in to do their dirty work of demolishing homes.
The gypsies were evicted from their ten-year-old settlement, consisting of land which the settlers either owned or had been leased to them. There were no issues of trespass.
The gypsies themselves were dispersed and driven from the municipality of Basildon. Their pain is every bit as strong as that of people ethnically cleansed in Palestine or elsewhere. Eighty-six families and around one hundred children were rendered destitute, left to inhabit car parks and road lay-bys.
To carry out this piece of micro-ethnic cleansing, Basildon’s Conservative-led council and the Home office spent around twenty million pounds to make hundreds of people homeless. That amounts to some 230 000 pounds per gypsy family. Obviously Cameron and the Basildon Council leader, Tony Ball, think this is money well spent to pander to racist sentiment in Britain.
Those who say this is merely about upholding the laws of urban planning are either using this pretext to cover their racism or to absolve their consciousnesses. There is simply no meaningful parallel in preventing a property developer building for profit or a homeowner building an extension with the bulldozing of a decade old settlement. Why should planning law trump all other considerations? When the London orbital M25 motorway was built thousands of square kilometres of Green Belt land were concreted. Of course, a derogation for the M25 motorway was permitted because the road was deemed important. But why was there no derogation for the largest gypsy settlement in England?
The Dale Farm settlement is to be bulldozed in an attempt to create the pretence that it never existed.