Police fight a 'pitched battle' with travellers

POLICE in Hampshire were last night locked in a stand-off with thousands of New Age travellers, hippies and ravers after a day of 'pitched battles' to stop them holding a 'Torpedo Town Festival' at Romsey, near Southampton.

All weekend police leave in the county was cancelled and reinforcements were drafted in from Sussex and Surrey. By last night the number of travellers' vehicles had reached 1,000.

More than 12 police officers were injured and treated for cuts and bruises after clashes with the travellers. Three, including a woman constable, were admitted to hospital on Friday night. According to a police spokesman they were hit by bottles and stones.

Six police vehicles were damaged, and a pounds 5,000 police motorcycle was run over and crushed by a traveller's lorry. Two police roadblocks were rammed by convoys.

According to police, the ravers had swept through the county breaking villagers' fences, stealing from shops, and driving their buses and lorries on the wrong side of the road. But to begin with, the travellers' approach was leisurely. 'We only want to party,' their war cry this summer, echoed across the fields as vans, three-ton trucks and 40-seater buses, packed full, started arriving on Friday for the 'Torpedo Town' festival - a reference to the county's arms industry.

Two hundred police officers, in cars, vans and on motorcycles had encircled Romsey to prevent the travellers from stopping.

The travellers, however, were not easily dissuaded.

Early yesterday, after a night of being pushed around narrow lanes by the police, they advanced on a field on the outskirts of Romsey where a group of about 1,000 travellers had set up camp.

The police refused to let them pass and a pitched battle flared. Bottles and sticks, torn from residents' gardens, were hurled at police in riot gear. Three officers were wounded and one was taken to hospital with 'severe cuts and bruises'. By midday 30 arrests had been made.

Travellers claimed one of their party had been beaten by the police. A police spokesman denied the allegation.

By lunchtime yesterday the travellers had consolidated their advance and established two camps, one outside the town and inside on Cupenham Lane, each containing about 400 vehicles.

As the day wore on, the travellers' determination to congregate on the Cupenham Lane site increased.

'Things have been very nasty,' said Inspector Barry Jakeman, of Winchester.

'Officers have been physically and verbally abused. This afternoon a police motorbike was driven over and crushed. They want to hold an illegal festival and it is our job to stop them, but we have only 200 men and there are perhaps 10,000 of them. If they want to drive at us, obviously we have no choice but to get out of the way.'

He said the strategy had been to herd the travellers into small groups and prevent them joining the festival.

'With every hour that goes by without a full-blown festival, we're winning.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing