Essex Police successfully evicted the Irish Traveller residents of Dale Farm on Wednesday.
The controversial land seizure escalated into a war zone, according to a number of English news outlets, with residents and activists defending the fortified community from an invading police force. Burning mobile homes blocked paths as officers attempted to remove people from the area.
Twenty-three people were arrested, two stunned by Taser guns and at least six people were injured.
Dale Farm was just the latest eviction in England, where traveller communities have been persecuted for centuries.
So who are the travellers and why are they so hated?
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 in unauthorized plots and common fields.
Long 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.
The unofficial status of many of the traveller communities allows the government to ignore them.
I was aware that they had to bring in water in stainless steel milk cans for their everyday use, and I wondered what they did with their disposable nappies [diapers] and other human waste, Dale Farm resident Germaine Greer said in a Telegraph editorial, referring to a visit the traveller encampment at Stump Cross Roundabout in Essex.
I rang the local council and asked whether, as the travellers were only yards from the sewage treatment plant, they mightn't have sewerage, given there were so many children on the site. I was told the pitch was illegal and the travellers were there on sufferance.
But where does the prejudice come from?
The lawbreaking that Jones speaks of is one part of it. Traveller communities are often built without legal permission, sometimes on public greens and sometimes on privately-owned land. When the travellers first moved to Dale Farm in the 1960s, much of it was already designated as a scrap yard.
As the community grew over the decades, more homes were built on land that was part of the green belt, a ring of land around London protected from urbanization and city sprawl.
Officially, this is why the Dale Farm community was cleared. After nearly a decade of legal battles, the Basildon city council will be able to restore Dale Farm to green belt specifications over the next few months.
The Traveller community is being criminalized- it has been made illegal for them to travel, but they are not being allowed to settle, Natalie Fox, a spokesperson for Dale Farm Solidarity, told the Dale Farm Supporters blog. If Traveller families are not allowed to make their home on a former scrapyard, then where will they be allowed to live?
Not all the residents of Dale Farm are Irish Travellers. Some are Romani, a similar nomadic group that has spread across continental Europe. Traditionally a traveling community with roots tracing back to India, the Romani peoples are also oft subject to extreme, institutionalized persecution.
Facing de facto discrimination in most European countries, the Romani, or Gypsy, community is economically troubled and many Romani live in slums, shanty-towns or in substandard housing. Like the travellers, these communities have been subject to forced eviction and displacement in the past.
Land disputes aside, the travellers are an ostracized group, and an Irish researcher found in May that they were nearly as despised as drug addicts and alcohols. As discovered by many Americans and Britons on the BBC show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, travellers still face discrimination in the workplace, forcing many of them to lie in order to be employed.
While there is no definitive logic for these prejudices, the travellers' inclusiveness doesn't help the situation. They are a tight-knit, insular community steeped with unwavering tradition. While they fight for rights, they also sometimes fight against assimilation into normative society.
Irish Travelers are said to be 'endogamous,' that is, they marry within their own group and marriage outside the group is frowned upon. Traditionally, children are home-schooled, Southern Cross newspaper said in 2008.
Like the Romani, they are also widely considered to be violent, unkempt grafters - general menaces to society. Both men and women are thought of as drunks who like to brawl and gamble. In 2007 the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs of Georgia published a letter titled Irish Travelers Perpetuate a Tradition of Fraud.
These descendants of Irish immigrants live in nomadic clans and make their living by perpetuating home improvement fraud and selling substandard machinery at huge mark-ups, the statement, which has been removed from the Georgia state Wed site, read.
Additionally, many Irish citizens were shocked when a family feud at a traveller camp in 2008 turned into an all-out riot.
Petrol bombs, stones, chainsaws, golf clubs, a samurai sword and other dangerous missiles were used in the clashes. The row has been described by an eyewitness as 'like a scene from 1980s' Belfast.' The Independent reported at the time.
Nonetheless, travellers are protected under the Caravan Sites Act of 1968, which restricts the eviction of caravan sites. The same local authorities that evict travellers are required to secure the establishment of such sites by local authorities for the use of gipsies [sic] and other persons of nomadic habit, and control in certain areas the unauthorized [sic] occupation of land by such persons.
So far, the Dale Farm travellers have not been shown where they will be relocated, despite a promise that land has been set aside. So Wednesday night, with many caravans burned or broken, about 82 families are left to fend for themselves.
The memory of Dale Farm will weigh heavily on Britain for generations- we are being dragged out of the only homes we have in this world, Dale Farm resident Kathleen McCarthy stated. Our entire community is being ripped apart by Basildon Council and the politicians in government.