After a period of resistance, Irish Travelers occupying the Dale Farm site outside of London have finally began to vacate the area on Thursday. The occupants have been living there illegally for a decade, but have fought to retain their homes on the disputed site.
The typically nomadic group have been at Dale Farm since 2001 after having purchased and settled in a former scrap yard next to a legally-owned Traveler site, reports The Sacramento Bee. While the Travelers legally owned the land there, they did not have planning permission to live there. Legal battles about the disputed site have been ongoing since then, but the Travelers lost a final appeal last week, forcing them to leave.
The Travelers who had settled there, however, call their eviction an “ethnic cleansing” which has been forced upon them by local authorities. 86 families are required to vacate the site, with no confirmed offerings of an area to relocate to by local authorities.
The matter turned violent when Travelers and their supporters formed a resistance to the imposing local authorities, even going as far as throwing bricks and missiles at police. A 40-foot barricade was constructed in hopes of deterring authorities, but it has since been dismantled. Cherry-pickers removed protesters who had climbed up onto the barricade, some even chaining themselves to it. 34 people so far have been arrested.
But, was there any way around the violence that spawned from the eviction of the Travelers? Independent Catholic News believes there was. “We believe it would have been better to wait until a suitable site had been found for these people and they could have left with their dignity,” said Joe Browne, consultant with the Irish Chaplaincy Travellers' Project. Many Travelers did not have a confirmed place to live upon eviction. He goes on to call the situation a “scandal in a modern democratic country.”
The BBC reports that on Thursday, the remaining Travelers on the site banded together for a “walk-out” of Dale Farm. "It is a terrible moment, very sad, but the time has come," said resident Kathleen McCarthy. McCarthy also said that all the Travelers ever wanted was to be able to leave with dignity.