Travellers and their supporters staged a formal walk-out from Britain’s largest illegal site yesterday, ending a two-day stand-off against bailiffs and police.
Chanting “Save Dale Farm”, more than 100 people left yesterday through the gap that opened up after bailiffs demolished the main gate, which had become a symbol of resistance.
Resident Kathleen McCarthy said: “Our message is that, as supporters and residents, we leave with our heads held high. It is a terrible moment, very sad, but the time has come.
“Our message to the council is shame on the council – you have left us homeless.
“We are proud people and we only ever wanted to leave peacefully. We are not the thugs they made us out to be, we are not law-breaking people.”
Most residents plan to relocate to Oak Road, on the neighbouring legal site. They are expected to disperse across Essex and the region over the coming days.
Earlier in the day, residents – who had previously said they would chain themselves to their homes – said they were ready to leave after being shocked by the violent start to the site clearance on Wednesday.
Families later began to leave the site in a steady procession of caravans.
Resident Mary Sheridan said: “Leaving with supporters today is about our own dignity and our appreciation of the support we’ve received.
“We’re leaving together as one family, and we are proud of that- you can’t take away our dignity”.
The mass walkout leaves the site free of people except legal observers, who are required to make sure the bailiffs comply with the law. The bailiffs, employed by Basildon Council, began demolishing the first plot shortly before the walk-out and work will continue today .
It brings to an end a decade-long row over unauthorised plots on the six-acre site near Basildon.