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Violent clashes as UK police begin clearing illegal Traveler camp

The AP reports from CRAYS HILL, England:

 British police in riot gear on Wednesday used sledgehammers to clear the way for the eviction of a community of Irish Travelers from a site where they have lived illegally for a decade.

A large force of police and bailiffs faced resistance from several dozen residents and supporters who threw bricks and struggled with officers at the Dale Farm site, set amid fields 30 miles east of London. One mobile home was set on fire as police moved in at dawn, and several protesters chained themselves to barricades with bicycle locks in a bid to slow down the evictions. Others scaled a 40-foot scaffolding tower, from which police began removing them one by one.

Essex Police said two protesters were Tasered and one person arrested and that police officers had been attacked with rocks and other missiles.

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Activists confront police as they enter the site to begin evictions from Dale Farm travelers' camp near Basildon, England, on October 19. Travelers have fought for 10 years to stay on the former scrap yard site. The local authorities have been given the go-ahead to proceed with the eviction of illegal dwellings after rulings by the Court of Appeal.

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A resident moves a figure of the Virgin Mary to safety during evictions from Dale Farm travelers' camp on October 19.

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Riot police move in to evict travelers and their supporters from Dale Farm on October 19. Missiles were hurled at police and fires set as the clearance of Britain's biggest illegal travelers' site finally got under way Wednesday.

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An activist holds up a placard in front of a police line during evictions from Dale Farm travelers' camp on October 19.

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Traveler Maime Slattery tells police to vacate a legal plot on Dale Farm travelers' camp as evictions begin on October 19.

The conflict over the settlement has simmered since 2001, when Travelers bought and settled on a former scrap yard next to a legal Travelers' site.

The local authority says it's a simple planning issue — the 86 families lack permission to pitch homes on the land. The Travelers, a traditionally nomadic group similar to, but ethnically distinct from, Gypsy or Roma people, call it ethnic cleansing — the latest chapter in a centuries-old story of mistrust between nomads and British society.

"We are being dragged out of the only homes we have in this world," said Kathleen McCarthy, a Dale Farm resident. "We will do our best to stay but it looks like we have no hope." Read the full story.

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An activist lies with her head attached to the main barricade using a bicycle lock at Dale Farm travelers' camp on October 18.

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Police in riot gear advance across a field as evictions begin at Dale Farm travelers' camp on October 19.

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A resident clears out her caravan during evictions from Dale Farm travelers' camp on October 19.

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A caravan is burnt down as activists stand nearby during evictions from Dale Farm travelers' camp on October 19.