Two protesters have been Tasered and three arrested in clashes with bailiffs and riot police as the local council evicts travellers from Dale Farm, the UK’s largest illegal travellers’ site.
Officers in riot gear entered Dale Farm, near Basildon in Essex, before 8am to begin the evictions.
There have since been a number of clashes, with two protesters Tasered and at least three arrested. The protesters are trying to protect what they believe is the right of the eighty or so traveller families to remain on the land, but Basildon Council says the travellers are living there illegally.
The police defended their handling of the showdowns, which included protesters throwing bricks and debris at police, saying they had not used “undue force”. Superintendent Trevor Roe, of Essex Police, insisted his force had treated those on site with “respect and dignity”.
He said: “Serious violence was offered to a pair of officers in particular. Their response was to protect themselves. They carry personal protective equipment which includes the Taser and they just naturally reacted as they are trained individuals to operate that device.”
Read more: What next for the Dale Farm travellers?
An inquiry will now be launched into issues of reasonable force during the operation, led by at least 50 officers. The eviction comes after a lengthy legal battle over whether the travellers have the right to remain on the land.
Basildon Council estimates the “worst-case scenario” cost of the eviction could be £18m, spread between the council and the police.
Essex Police said the force was now in control of the site, describing the atmosphere as “calm” while tension had been “reduced”.
“We haven’t had many difficulties this morning,” Supt Roe added.
The memory of Dale Farm will weigh heavily on Britain for generations. Resident Kathleen McCarthy
“We treated everybody with respect and dignity and there’s been a clear delineation between the travellers and the protesters this morning.”
Supporters erected barricades inside the site as police continued to try to clear it. Protesters said electricity supplies to the camp were cut, leaving some of the residents without crucial medical equipment. Protesters also set fire to a caravan placed across the street inside Dale Farm.
Kathleen McCarthy, a Dale Farm resident, said: “The memory of Dale Farm will weigh heavily on Britain for generations – we are being dragged out of the only homes we have in this world.
“Our entire community is being ripped apart by Basildon council and the politicians in government.”
Lily Hayes, a human rights observer, said: “Basildon council are violating the court order by smashing in the walls of a fully legal plot on the Dale Farm site. They are also acting unnecessarily brutally.”
Basildon council leader Tony Ball condemned the violence. He said: “The premeditated and organised scenes of violence that we have already seen, with protesters throwing rocks and bricks, threatening police with iron bars and setting fire to a caravan, are shocking.
“These are utterly disgraceful scenes and demonstrate the fact some so-called supporters were always intent on violence. Nonetheless we are going to press on with this operation with our partners in a safe, dignified and humane way and will uphold the law.”
Click inside the timeline below to view the Dale Farm story as it unfolded. On the right-hand slider you can change the timescale from hours, to months and years. Click on “Battle for Dale Farm” and “re-focus” to get back to today.