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The premeditated, ruthless cruelty and violence meted out by South Yorkshire Police (SYP) against miners picketing the Orgreave coking plant on June 18 1984, during the year-long miners strike, the subsequent arrests of 95 miners on spurious charges, evidence of police lying under oath in court, alleged cover ups and the courageous Hillsborough campaign all contributed to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) being established in 2012 to press for a public inquiry into what happened at Orgreave.
This sequence of malicious wrongdoings by SYP created a culture of unchallenged behaviour which many believe led to the ensuing police conduct after the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in Sheffield.
The insensitive reaction by the same police force to grieving families, apportioning blame on to blameless Liverpool football fans, corruption, cover ups and a government and media eager to demonise working-class people, highlighted incredible similarities between Hillsborough and Orgreave, suggesting the truth about Hillsborough cannot be fully established until we get the truth about Orgreave.
After the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) had examined documentation relating to Orgreave they said there were indications of police giving false evidence and lying under oath. As home secretary, Theresa May gave strong hopes to the OTJC that police malpractice and perjury referred to in the IPCC report would be investigated if the OTJC could supply information.
After providing a detailed legal submission to May in December 2015, the subsequent and current Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, came to the shocking conclusion in last October that there was not sufficient basis for an inquiry because nobody had died, there had been no miscarriage of justice, there were no lessons to be learned and the police had been significantly reformed.
An inquiry into government participation and police operations at Orgreave is necessary to establish truth and justice to enable miners and their communities to have closure and move forward. It is clear that the Conservatives are protecting the 1980s government which engineered and authorised police brutality against miners using whatever methods deemed necessary to demonise and undermine workers fighting for their jobs and their communities.
The Conservatives’ destruction of the coal and other major British industries in the 1980s significantly affected industrial relations, paved the way for privatising public services, reduced workers’ rights, punished the poor through housing and welfare reforms and encouraged xenophobia.
Their divide-and-rule ideology has led to a society motivated by wealth and greed, has normalised politicians telling lies, increased the inhumane reliance on foodbanks and made people feel disenfranchised and powerless.
Despite Rudd’s determination not to allow an inquiry the OTJC is receiving increasing solidarity and support from the labour and trade union movement. The campaign has held a series of highly successful social and political events, meetings and rallies amassing a vast amount of interest and support from the public, politicians and supporters in Britain, France, Norway, Germany and Denmark.
Incredible support has been received from the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn, with a manifesto undertaking to hold an inquiry. The Tories have made it clear that they will not hold an inquiry. The election of a Labour government is essential to get the truth and justice we all deserve.
Attempts by the government to make it difficult to access essential Home Office files have not discouraged campaigners.
The parliamentary home affairs select committee has helped to get some files released, SYP have employed an archivist to gather relevant evidence and information and local councils, trade unions and political organisations have passed resolutions, invited us to attend and speak at meetings and written directly to Rudd to keep up the pressure and urging her to commission an inquiry.
It has become clear that the government did not examine IPCC or SYP evidence when making a decision that no inquiry would take place. Attempts to cover up the facts during and after the strike and prevent an inquiry suggest there must be more revelations to come.
The recent Crown Prosecution Service charges against police associated with the Hillsborough disaster are deeply significant. The OTJC is exploring legal options.
The deliberate construction of a false narrative in police evidence, the conscious promotion of it through the media, the lack of legal accountability for what happened and the ongoing consequences, Hillsborough, Pitchford, Rotherham, Grenfell and new sources of evidence are all many reasons why it is in the public interest that an Orgreave inquiry is commissioned.
It represents one of the gravest miscarriages of justice in our country’s history and is still relevant today. An inquiry must be transparent, open and accessible, have powers to require relevant information and evidence to be produced to it, allow those who have an interest in the inquiry to fully participate and ensure that inquiry investigators have a range of relevant skills and experience.
The strong bonds of comradeship, solidarity and friendship displayed during the miners’ strike help to sustain the OTJC.
It is an honour to attend the magnificent Durham Miners’ Gala again this year with our banners and flags, selling our merchandise in the big tent.
Please come along and say hello to us and show your support.
Kate Flannery is OTJC executive committee member.
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