In Essex, England, ten years of tension erupted at Dale Farm on Wednesday, as police forcibly entered the Irish Traveller community to evict 400 people from their homes.
Police were met by residents and activists early in the morning, some of whom had chained themselves to a two-story tall barricade made of scaffolding.
The scene quickly took a violent turn, as officers in riot gear clashed with the protestors. People threw bricks and stones as police broke through fences and walls surrounding Dale Farm, while other residents attempted to build roadblocks with found material.
The most resonating image from the scene, which was described by media outlets as a war zone, was that of a mobile home engulfed in flames. Police, armed with tasers, batons and shields, marched through the land as residents and activists threw wood and cardboard on the fires to make them grow larger.
By noon local time, police had begun cutting protestors down from the tower and were clearing residents away from the area.
We are in control of the whole site. It's calm. The tension is now reduced, Essex Police spokesman Trevor Rowe told reporters.
The majority of the violence has clearly come from the protestors, he added.
What is Dale Farm?
Dale Farm is one of the largest traveller communities in the world, home to 82 families and over 1,000 people, about half of whom will be homeless on Wednesday night.
Many of the residents built on and occupied the land without legal permission, prompting the Basildon district council to vote to evict last March.
The community was built on what is known as green belt land, which is a circle of legally protected farmland and country surrounding London. Clearing the site and returning it to green belt regulations will cost the government and estimated 22 billion pounds ($34 million).
The planned site clearance date, set for September, was pushed back a month, but on Wednesday police and security officers cut through metal fence and sledgehammered the brick walls built to guard the community and began forcibly removing people from their homes.
Upon the Travellers' eviction, the Basildon is required by law to provide another plot for residents to move to, but those evicted on Wednesday have yet to see any new land.
Who are the Travellers?
The Irish Travellers, sometimes called Pavees, are an ethnically Irish nomadic community. In England, they live in small, tight-knit groups and are characterized as living on Caravan sites -- an English equivalent to a trailer park. Because of the nomadic and informal nature of traveller communities, they frequently settle on unauthorized plots and common fields.
Subject to discrimination, hatred and eviction, England has passed a number of laws to protect traveller communities, and authorities are required to provide new caravan sites when clearing an area like Dale Farm. Nonetheless, there have been a number of forced evictions in recent years.
Along with Romani Gypsies, Irish Travellers remain an object of widespread prejudice in British society. What we're seeing take place at Dale Farm today is the culmination of years of intolerance, author Owen Jones wrote in The Telegraph.
There's a lot of talk about the travellers breaking the law - but, in reality, it's a position they've been forced into. Rather than spending millions of pounds to forcibly throw families out of their homes, we should be looking at how build a society that's far more accepting of minority groups. As things stand, riot police charging protesters has become one of the defining images of Cameron's Britain.
This is going to end in death if they don't stop this. My sister over there has cancer, she can't fight back. I ask everyone with a heart - why can't a traveller have justice? Why are we being throw out on the street like dogs? traveller Nora Sheridan told The Telegraph.
The clash between protestors and police does create a safety concern for officers who are trying to remove residents from their home. Having crossed the rock-throwing and and taser gun-firing line early Wednesday, hot tempers and chaotic conditions make it difficult to see clearly, even when evicting people confined to wheelchairs.
One traveller painted lady with difficulty breathing in large, red letters on the side of her caravan as a message to police. That trailer was later set on fire.
By around 9:30 a.m. local time at least six people had been injured while resisting eviction -- including a mother who was taken to the hospital after being hit in the back with a police baton -- and two people were hit by stun guns. Additionally, three people were arrested.
I am absolutely clear that after ten years of negotiation to try and find a peaceful solution to this, that actually what we're doing is the right thing, Basildon Council leader Tony Ball told reporters Wednesday.
I now call upon the travellers to ask the protestors to stand down so that the bailiffs can carry on with their lawful work of clearing the site.