Galway Girl Ed Sheeran
20 October 2011, 17:49
Travellers living on illegal pitches at Dale Farm have ended their fight with Basildon Council.
A steady procession of caravans was seen leaving the Crays Hill site on Thursday afternoon - the UK's largest illegal site - ending a two-day stand off against bailiffs and Essex Police.
Many families moved to nearby legal pitches while others headed to surrounding roads, saying they would spend the night by roadsides.
Chanting "Save Dale Farm'', more than 100 people left through the gap 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.''
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 clearance yesterday.
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 walk-out leaves the site free of people except legal observers, who are required to make sure the bailiffs comply with the law.
Ali Saunders, a Dale Farm supporter, added: "We have held off eviction for over a month, and our sense of togetherness has been amazing.
"Anyone who has visited the community cannot fail to see the importance of a movement to promote the rights of travellers. Dale Farm will have a legacy for years to come.''
Bailiffs, employed by Basildon Council, began demolishing the first plot shortly before the walk-out and work will continue on Friday.
The walk out brings to an end a decade-long row over unauthorised plots on the six acre site near Basildon.