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HUNDREDS of people rallied and marched in South Yorkshire to mark the anniversary of 1984’s brutal attack by police on striking miners at Orgreave coking plant — and to renew calls for an inquiry.
The rally was the biggest since the Orgreave Truth & Justice Campaign (OTJC) set up in 2012 to demand a public inquiry into the police action.
On June 18 1984 6,000 armoured and armed police, with cavalry and dogs, lured striking miners into a field close to the Orgreave cokeworks near Rotherham, which they were trying to peacefully picket. Once the lightly clad and good-spirited miners were hemmed into the field on three sides, police launched their attack.
OTJC’s calls for a public inquiry into the shocking incident, which took place during the 1984-5 miners’ strike against pit closures, have been repeatedly rebuffed by Tory home secretaries.
Saturday’s march and rally, led by the union Unite’s brass band and the PCS samba band, was symbolic of the campaigners’ determination to discover the truth.
Other victims of injustice marched with them: workers blacklisted in the construction industry, victims of the Grenfell fire disaster represented by the Fire Brigades Union and Shrewsbury 24 campaigners seeking justice over the imprisonment of striking building site workers in the 1970s were there.
Speaker after speaker at the rally expressed determination to continue the Orgreave campaign until truth and justice are achieved.
National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Chris Kitchen said the union was committed to OTJC — as it is to its campaign to end government theft of 50 per cent of the income from mineworkers’ pensions investments.
Orgreave activist Chris Peace, who is Labour’s parliamentary candidate for North East Derbyshire, said: “We are not going away. With the support of our trade union comrades we are going to be more active together. We will right this wrong.”
The youngest speaker, councillor Sophie Wilson from Sheffield, represented a new generation of campaigners.
“I was born more than 10 years after the miners’ strike,” she said. “The police have not changed, whatever the government and its ministers say. I am proud to be part of a Labour Party that has promised a full inquiry.”
In a blistering speech, senior assistant general secretary of rail union RMT Steve Hedley likened police determination to crush the miners to police actions against civil liberties protesters in his home region, the north of Ireland.
After hearing the initial speakers, the numerous campaigners marched to the Orgreave site for the second rally, where Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack linked the Orgreave injustice to that of 2017’s Grenfell fire disaster: two years on there had been no progress in identifying and prosecuting those responsible for the deaths of 72 people in the fire.
“We want justice, we want the truth,” but above all “we want fundamental change — and for me that means socialism,” he said to great approval.
Messages of support from labour movement figures including Tim Roache, general secretary of GMB, Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite and film-maker Ken Loach were relayed to the throng, while trade union and campaign banners represented the depth and spread of support for the Orgreave campaign.
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