CRAYS HILL, Essex Action to clear campaigners and barricades blocking the entrance to Britain's biggest illegal travellers' site resumed on Thursday after the first day of the eviction operation saw 23 arrests amid violent clashes between police and protesters.
Police in riot gear used tasers against protesters who they said had been armed with iron bars and bombarded them with rocks and urine when they moved in to help clear the Dale Farm site in Essex on Wednesday.
Having taken control of the six-acre site near Basildon, officers have begun removing protesters chained to scaffolding or other blockades near the front gate to allow bailiffs to start their clearance operation.
"I hope that there are no repeats of yesterday's scenes of pre-meditated violence and disorder from the protesters on the site, and that we can get on with the job of upholding the law, and clearing the site," said Basildon Council leader Tony Ball.
The eviction of about 400 travellers marks the climax of a 10-year planning battle with authorities.
The site's residents had won a temporary reprieve last month when the High Court issued an injunction stopping officials from clearing the land, but their battle came to an end when they lost a final legal hearing last week.
The authorities said the police led the clearance operation because they had received intelligence that serious disorder was likely and potential weapons had been stockpiled.
Residents have condemned the "brutal police and bailiff action" and some have vowed to keep up their resistance.
"Many of the residents are frightened by the scenes of police violence yesterday, but are determined to stay for as long as possible -- the brutality of homelessness on the roadside is the only alternative," said a statement on the Dale Farm Solidarity Group website.
The travellers argue the clearance is a breach of their human rights, targeting a vulnerable group whose choice of lifestyle does not fit in with the mainstream.
The local council argues it is a planning dispute, with the travellers breaking the law by illegally building on the green belt, the band of countryside around London intended to stop urban sprawl.
Many locals had complained of litter and noise from the site. Basildon council said it had tried to find the travellers alternative sites, but talks had been exhausted.
Supporters of the travellers appealed for more people to come and back their protest.
"We are here a lot longer than was initially expected, and if you come down to resist and support we can do it even longer," the Solidarity Group said.
"Even if we don't manage to hold the site, it is still incredibly important that the Dale Farm community sees that they are supported by more and more people every day."
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison)
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