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GYPSIES at the largest illegal travellers’ site in Europe are preparing to fight an £18million operation to kick them out and demolish their homes.
More than 90 families are appealing for a mass gathering of international support to join them in a last-ditch attempt to thwart the bulldozers.
Both sides are already squaring up for battle in the joint council and police eviction at the Dale Farm site at Crays Hill at Basildon, Essex.
Bailiffs are being trained by the council in how to deal with the gypsies when they raid the site anytime after an August 31 deadline for them to go.
The gypsies are undergoing “practical resistance training” and calling for the instruction of supporters as human rights monitors.
Tree-climbing and other evasion tactics will be used to make it difficult for the bailiffs.
The gypsies are hoping as many supporters as possible will bring tents or caravans to help mount non-violent opposition on the weekend before the deadline is up. Some gypsies have committed themselves to a campaign of “civil disobedience” and many nearby residents believe violent flare-ups are inevitable.
Neighbouring parish and district councils, as well as landowners, are being warned to prepare for a mass influx of other travellers.
The gypsies claim they should not be removed from the site until they are guaranteed legal sites elsewhere.
Some have been living on a legal, former scrapyard site for decades but since 2001 hundreds have poured on to adjoining land that has no planning permission, bringing the camp population up to 1,000, almost half of whom are living there illegally.
Local councillor Malcolm Buckley said: “Travellers should not break laws other people abide by.
“Why has this taken so long? Everybody wants to see the situation resolved. We are hoping the travellers will move on peacefully. “It will be a peaceful event unless the people on the site choose it not to be.”
Joseph Jones, secretary of the national Gypsy Council, said yesterday: “I’ve no idea what will happen or if there will be violence or not. The council was given a target of the number of pitches they should provide and they failed to meet it. They seem able to meet the target for people who live in houses, so why not for people who live in caravans?”
Eviction notices at the previously greenfield site were served by Basildon Council earlier this month.
The gypsies were ordered to go by the end of August or face having their caravans destroyed and any hard covering or permanent property smashed up and bulldozed.
The council has budgeted £8million for the eviction, which could go on for six weeks, while police anticipate it will cost them £10million, of which the Home Office has pledged £8million.
Dawn French, for Basildon Council, said: “Bailiff training will include cultural awareness and discrimination law requirements.”