Early in the morning, the bailiffs and riot police smashed through fences to evict dozens of traveller families living illegally on the Dale Farm site in Essex, UK.
Authorities entered Dale Farm site after breaking down a rear fence just after 07:00 BST, prompting angry scenes.
The travellers lost a last-ditch attempt to stave off the evictions at the Court of Appeal on Monday.
An alarm siren sounded inside the perimeter of Dale Farm and protesters gathered at the main gate rushed to the eastern side of the site where police were streaming in.
They engaged in hand to hand fighting with the officers who had come across the adjacent fields.
The operation was entirely police led and they were moving at jogging pace, driving back the protesters in a running battle.
100 officers pushed people aside as they made their way through Dale Farm site. Ranks of officers, including many from the Metropolitan force, lined up in front of the main gate and its gantry which has now become the symbol of the fight.
They were pelted with bricks, bottles and other debris and used riot shields above their heads as protection.
Dale Farm travellers hurled missiles on authorities who responded by using Tasers.
Some of the travelers used motorcycle d-locks to chain themselves by the neck to ruined cars but police pushed aside a rambling protester and marched deeper into the site.
Electricity supplies were cut and protesters wearing masks said this had turned off crucial medical equipment belonging to elderly residents.
Moments later a caravan was set ablaze, sending flames and thick black smoke into the air.
Within 15 minutes police had complete control over Dale Farm site.
According to Essex Police, officers entered the site “following intelligence which informed the commanders that anyone entering the site was likely to come up against violence and a serious breach of the peace would occur”.
The Essex Police statement said: “Intelligence received indicated protesters had stockpiled various items with the intent of using these against bailiffs and police.
“First officers on the site were attacked with missiles being thrown including rocks and liquids. These officers were fully equipped to deal with this situation.”
“Consistent attempts have been made, both on Tuesday and this morning, to negotiate with protesters to leave the site peacefully.”
Dale Farm eviction, which could cost up to £18 million ($28 million), marks the end of a 10-year battle between travellers, who bought a former scrap yard on green belt land in 2001 and established their caravans there, and local authorities. More travellers joined them and some semi-permanent chalet dwellings were built.
Dale Farm history
1960’s Small numbers of travellers begin to settle alongside the Dale Farm site, part of which was authorized as a scrapyard.
1990’s The site has grown to 37 plots authorized by Basildon Council.
2001 Dale Farm traveller families began to set up pitches illegally on green belt land.
2005, May- Travellers are ordered to leave Dale Farm after a planning inspector declares the development illegal. Basildon Council votes to bring enforcement action.
June – Actor and political activist Corin Redgrave suffers a heart attack while speaking at a Basildon Council meeting discussing the future of Dale Farm. He describes travellers as “the most deprived community in the country”.
2006, May – Dale Farm travellers hold a vigil outside Westminster as the Government discusses new guidance on gypsy and traveller sites.
2007, December – The Save Dale Farm Campaign appeals for a rethink following a Basildon Council ruling to hire eviction specialists and bulldoze the site.
2008, May – Travellers celebrate the opening of a new community centre despite continuing court action from Basildon Council to allow the eviction to go ahead.
January – The Court of Appeal rules that an earlier judgment in the High Court – which quashed Basildon Council’s decision to take enforcement action – was flawed. Lord Justice Pill said the decision to clear the site was lawful.
2011, March – Basildon Council votes for a fresh resolution to clear Dale Farm. Officials estimate the eviction will cost more than £18 million. The Government agrees to part-fund the council and police operations.
July – Eviction notices are served by Basildon Council. The council gives residents occupying 51 unauthorized pitches 28 days to vacate the land.
August 8 – The campaign to stop the eviction gathers pace as actress and human rights campaigner Vanessa Redgrave visits Dale Farm. Activists begin to set up ‘Camp Constant’ to help defend travellers. Lawyers fail in a High Court bid to halt the eviction.
September 5 – The date for the beginning of the clearance is revealed as September 19 – Travellers criticize the council after the date was leaked to the media before they were informed.
September 16 – Elderly resident Mary Flynn given a final chance to challenge clearance of the site.
September 18 – Supporters and travellers resisting the clearance of Dale Farm lock down the site as they prepare for the arrival of bailiffs.
September 19 – Bailiffs arrive at the main gate of Dale Farm to start the eviction of up to 80 families living on the unauthorized plot. Later, the residents win a last-gasp injunction preventing the council from clearing structures.
September 21 – Travellers flee the site amid fears of eviction. A group of travellers claiming to be from Dale Farm relocate to a public park in Luton.
September 26 – Residents win a temporary reprieve. A judge rules that residents are entitled to an extension of an injunction stopping their evictions until the courts have ruled on the legality of their proposed removal.
October 17 – Residents refused permission to appeal against a High Court ruling that gave Basildon Council the go-ahead to evict them.
October 19 – Supporters clash with bailiffs and riot police as the planned eviction finally gets under way.