Travellers leave Dale Farm

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Travellers and their supporters today walked out of the UK's largest illegal site, ending a two-day stand off against bailiffs and police.

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."

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 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. Work will continue tomorrow.

The walk out brings to an end a decade-long row over unauthorised plots on the six acre site near Basildon.

This morning, bailiffs removed five protesters who remained chained to the main gate and a road block inside the site.

After the walk-out families began to leave the site in a steady procession of caravans.

Some parked up for the night on the legal side of the site but said they would move on in the morning. Others headed to surrounding roads, saying they would spend the night by roadsides.

Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said: "This is very encouraging to see the travellers and their supporters leaving Dale Farm in a peaceful and dignified manner, something that I have always urged and called for.

"Sadly, this could have been achieved many years ago and without the scenes of violence which we have witnessed over the last 48 hours and the accompanying expense to the taxpayer.

"Nevertheless, as I have said, it is encouraging and we now look forward to their continued compliance."

Essex Police said 39 people have been arrested. Most of these were arrested yesterday - five were arrested today.

One woman has been charged with a public order offence after refusing to remove a facial covering.

One person was released without charge, 23 released on bail and 14 remain in custody.

No travellers have been arrested.