Hundreds march to back travellers
Travellers threatened with eviction from the UK's largest illegal settlement have vowed they are going nowhere as hundreds of supporters marched to the site to give their support.
The travellers declared they "just want the right to stay in our own homes" as Basildon council in Essex plans to begin clearing Dale Farm after a decade-long dispute over unauthorised properties at the former scrapyard.
A combination of travellers, their supporters and human rights groups took part in the noisy but non-violent demonstration from Wickford railway station to a rally at the settlement.
They marched behind a banner which read "No Ethnic Cleansing At Dale Farm". Others held placards and flags which included the slogans "Don't Make Us Part Of The Housing Problem" and "Basildon Council Shame On You".
Officers from Essex Police escorted the protest on its three-mile route as local residents and Saturday afternoon shoppers looked on.
The Dale Farm residents who took part in the march voiced their anger at the evictions, which are due to begin on September 19.
Shannon Egane, 18, said: "We're sending the message that all travellers aren't bad. We are friendly people. We are going to stand our ground and say this is our home."
Mary Lee, 19, said: "We need to stay. Help travellers stay. Help travellers have rights for once in their lives. Please save our homes. We don't want every right in the world, we just want the right to stay in our own homes. Please don't evict us."
And Mary Nolan, 24, added: "It's not greenbelt land, it's a scrapyard and we made it our home." When asked how the travellers would react when the evictions begin, she said "we will go to the very end".
Basildon council plans to begin clearing Dale Farm after a decade-long dispute over unauthorised properties at the former scrapyard. Although half the site is legal, more than 80 properties have no planning permission and about 400 people are said to be living there illegally.