I just finished watching the BBC Panorama spotlight on the eviction of Dale Farm, and felt disgust like I haven’t in a long time.
For those not familiar with the story, there’s a raft of information online, but a quick summary is as follows: Land on which a scrapyard stood was sold to some travelling families who cleaned up the site and moved in. As time went by, more families moved in and erected chalets and similar structures without planning permission. As a result, the Council have been fighting to have their settlement declared illegal in order to have them removed.
The whole situation is incredible really… The rhetoric that has come from Basildon Council in response to questions about why they have chosen to forcibly evict these people from land that they own and live on peacefully has all been to do with the law. “We are simply upholding the law.” “They are in breach of planning law.”
I can’t for the life of me think of any other situation where the lack of planning consent would ever result in the deployment of riot police.
This call to the law as an authority in all circumstances brings to sharp focus the distinction between law and morality. Simply because an action is legal does not make it moral.
The people involved in this eviction were living in a fixed area after travelling communities were encouraged to buy up land and move onto them, rather than carrying on round the country as they were previously. This was to free up Councils from having to provide designated areas for travelling communities. Flying in the face of this, the reality is that the fears and sensibilities of those inhabiting a middle class part of England have resulted in an immoral and disproportionate eviction.
The aggression used by the police in their entry into the site was unbelievable.
Well, it would be unbelievable if we hadn’t become accustomed to such police violence in recent years. It is apparently now entirely appropriate to use tasers against unarmed people in their own homes. It’s apparently now completely acceptable to crush unarmed, crying mothers into brick walls with shields and batons. It’s apparently the norm to destroy private property without a court warrant as part of this process, and to threaten, swear and scream at legal observers whilst pointing weapons at them.
This eviction is a disgrace to our own people, to Basildon Council and those who live under its gaze. In an age where we are criticised for the way we live, without community and running up debts on our extravagant lifestyles, the full force of the State is used against people who are living together as families on land they own… simply for falling foul of class-based, bureaucratic planning laws.
What has been achieved by this aggressive eviction?
Have we shown that the good people of the UK respect the rule of law and expect it to be upheld? Have we really? Or have we shown (yet again) the dispassionate and violent engagement of peaceful people by the police; the lack of mercy, grace and understanding by Government at all levels; the failure of the judicial system to see past the red tape and into society as a whole; and that we are still terrified of anybody that lives differently from us?
I suggest that it is the latter.