Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The eviction of Dale Farm

An army of riot police invaded the travellers' site at Dale Farm this morning as they tore down barricades, arrested protesters, and evicted the residents from their homes. Typically, the media have seized upon the "violence" by those defending the site, but ultimately the police were the aggressors here. When faced with violent means to rob us of a place to live, we all have the right to resist.

The injustice of Dale Farm is particularly acute because the travellers legally own the land on which they have built their homes. They are not squatting on somebody else's, or on a playground or anything similar. Thus, those who claim to champion property rights in the face of council bureaucracy  - including the right to build a mock castle in your back garden - should be piping up in support of them. Instead, because we're talking about gypsies, they are all of a sudden leading calls for the state to act against those who own the land.

Then there is the fact that 90% of requests for planning permission by travellers are rejected (PDF), compared to 20% more generally. But whilst the 20% get column inches in national newspapers to voice their outrage and get high-profile backing, 100% of travellers are the subject of hate and scorn by the press.

In this situation, after a ten year battle, it is entirely understandable that the residents have no wish to leave peacefully. This is a clear instance of law and right being on opposite sides, and I will not condemn people for throwing bricks, bottles and buckets of piss at the cops in this instance. Had they been able to successfully repel the invaders, as the barricades and mass of protesters were no doubt intended to do, then it would even have been more than just an expression of justifiable outrage.

In all eviction scenarios, we reach this point when all other avenues have failed us. There are no more appeals, no more reprieves, and the bailiffs are coming. If we don't want to end up out on our arses, then we have to resist them - physically, and by all means necessary. In the case of Dale Farm this meant barricades and missiles. In other situations, such as resistance to the Poll Tax, this meant keeping watch for bailiffs, occupying their offices, and physically defending the homes they tried to enter. In any case, the principle is that when they come knocking we come out fighting.

Here, liberals might start wringing their hands, but the fact remains that non-violent civil disobedience can only go so far. Whether it is travellers who fall foul of racist planning laws or working class people snowed under by capitalism, when the bailiffs come calling we either resist eviction or face destitution.