Today saw a brutal eviction of dale farm my hundreds of police. At the crack of dawn police equipped in riot gear broke into the dale farm site. They used sledge hammers to break the walls of people’s homes (including some legal plots) and used tasers of protestors attempting to resist the eviction. Police violently attacked the residents fracturing the spine of one women taking refuge in one of the legal plots. Throughout the day the police harassed residents preventing some leaving their homes. Electricity for the site was cut off endangering the lives of several Travellers who rely on breathing machines to live.
All in all the Tory council spent £18 million so far in making 400 Travellers homeless. Despite that it still took the police all day to secure the site and the eviction is still ongoing.
The eviction shows that despite all David Cameron’s rebranding of the conservatives and their alliance with the Lib Dems they remain very much the nasty party. The only motive for the evictions is racism. The council claims they are upholding planning laws and protecting green belt land, however this claim does not stand up to scrutiny. Prior to occupation by the travellers the land was a scrap yard not green belt land. Travellers have for 10 years attempted to gain planning permission for the site but the council refused to grant it. Travellers have traditionally been labelled as thieves and misfits.
This eviction is part of a trend across Europe of scapegoating and attacking Travelling communities. Camps in Italy, France and Hungary have all been attacked by both the state and in Italy and Hungary at least by organised racists groups. As the economic crisis continues to deepen governments attempt to use scapegoats to turn anger away from themselves and the banks. We are told that there is not money left for services and we should fight each other in scraps at the bottom. In this environment everyone should stand 100% in solidarity with the Travellers facing eviction here and elsewhere.
The events were also a demonstration of the power of the state. Against a mere 400 people who refused to live there lives by the “normal” pattern hundreds of fully armed riot police were deployed. When confronted with that incredibly dangerous weapon of a bottle of piss the police used tasers to attack those who resisted their advances. The show of force by the state here against such a relatively small community shows that beyond the niceties of the court system are thousands of armed people to enforce the rule of law. This is not the first time police have been used to attack those who don’t fit in to system. Earlier this year student protesters felt the long arm of the law, a police charge into an anti Poll Tax demo in 1991 lead to a riot that help defeat the law, in the 1980s new age hippies whose only crime was to want to celebrate the solstice at stonehenge where badly beaten by hundreds of police and during perhaps the biggest confrontation of modern times, the miners’ strike, thousands of police occupied pit villages to smash pickets. The list of police violence is much longer than this and is a daily reality for many.
There are some lessons to be drawn from this for those of us who may wish to challenge the state, either to demand reforms or for more substantial change. At a time where the occupying spaces has become a tactic for achieving change we are reminded that should they wish to the state has forces capable of clearing away the occupations. Where this has been attempted in Spain it has backfired with thousands more joining the protests in solidarity but this power is still there. If the occupations seriously threaten the status quo these forces will need to be challenged.
The centralised nature of the state has also been shown; officers were drawn from surrounding police forces to reinforce the eviction. Some people argue for strategies to challenge the state and cause revolution by building up alternatives in the cracks of the system, these may be peace gardens in Athens, camps in Spanish squares or squats across the world. The strategy of not challenging the state is doomed to fail; if these movements started to threaten the power of private property then the state would intervene. Unless activists respond in a similarly centralised manner the state would be able to concentrate its forces and pick off the camps one by one. Ultimately is we are to achieve fundamental change we will need to take on the state head on.
The scenes today showed for all to see the brutal nature of the state. We should stand in solidarity with those facing attacks today but we should also take note. The forces today smashing up Travellers homes might tomorrow be attacking our occupations, our picket lines, our demonstrations. If we are to achieve systemic change one day we must face up to the state. There will be a point where if we do not smash the state it will smash our movement. As people were chanting today in dale farm “No justice! No Peace! F**k the Police!”