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ON THE day we celebrate the 136th Durham Miners’ Gala, we are mindful that last month we commemorated the 36th anniversary of the police riot at the Orgreave coking plant during the 1984-5 miners’ strike.
With the ongoing support and solidarity from the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA), National Union of Mineworkers and the wider trade-union and labour movement, the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) sustains its work and activities and continues to campaign for truth and justice.
We were honoured that DMA president/secretary Alan Mardghum contributed to our online “virtual” Orgreave rally in June, along with many other eminent speakers and campaigners representing ex-miners, health workers, Hillsborough Justice, blacklisting, Justice4Grenfell, the Shrewsbury 24, Justice for Christopher Alder and JENGbA (Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association).
Music from the PCS samba band, Unite brass band and Joe Solo completed our event of hope and unity.
The event attracted an audience of thousands and we received many messages of support and solidarity from activists and supporters throughout Britain.
Naturally we were all looking forward to attending the Durham Miners’ Gala again this year.
To be at the Big Meeting, the largest annual gathering of trade unionists in Britain, is a fantastic opportunity to meet up with our wonderful comrades and friends, and make new contacts and friendships with people from across Britain and the world who gather in the beautiful city of Durham to celebrate the mining industry and communities and trade unionism.
Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it impossible for us all to have our annual gatherings in person and parade our magnificent banners.
However, this has not deterred us and we have taken every opportunity to not only meet up online, but to interact, campaign and celebrate with people from parts of the country who have often found it difficult to attend events because of the distances they need to travel.
We are very aware that some Tory politicians and sections of the media are using our celebrations and commemorations of the strike to incite hatred and divisions and whip up racism in our communities.
We have had some Tory politicians, who claim to represent working-class communities, trying to get invitations to our events and posing with commemorative images and statues of miners.
Some Tories are also trying to undermine the credibility of current anti-racist and anti-fascist protests against slavery, racism and fascism and the symbols of British imperialism, by levelling accusations that the “left” is hypocritical and trying to suppress history and free speech.
It was the Tories who decimated our mining industry, attacking, lying about and vilifying workers trying to protect jobs and communities.
It was a Tory government that turned down our request for a public inquiry into the police riot at Orgreave, and it was a Tory home secretary who declared that there would “be very few lessons for the policing system today to be learned from any review of the events and practices of three decades ago.”
Formal invitations to our events should be to those who support us and the labour and trade-union movement, not those who have supported destroying our communities and livelihoods, have made no contribution to the events, and who form part of a system, political party and government that continue to persecute and abuse working-class people and our culture, stir up hatred and racism and facilitate the rise of fascism in this country.
This year we were proud to premiere our Miners’ Strike Stories film.
The OTJC wanted to record some of the real stories from participants of the great strike to preserve on film the heroic struggles of our miners, families, Women Against Pit Closures and other supporters.
In moving accounts, with humour, pride and sometimes anger and sadness, people tell their personal stories.
We want these accounts to inspire future generations and to encourage people to become involved in the trade-union movement today.
We have had years of cuts, austerity and a low-wage, zero-hours economy where workers are being denied basic human rights.
This film will hopefully inspire people to stand up for themselves and others, and to know that another world is possible.
Many people who took part in the strike and were deeply affected by it have died or are old.
It is so important for those of us who are still around to capture our social and political history and tell our stories to people who may not be aware of what we endured and how it still affects people’s lives today.
In highlighting the role that women and many supporters played in the strike, we wanted to draw parallels of what is happening today and what a Conservative government is capable of doing to protect its own interests.
The film is now available for you to download from our OTJC web page (otjc.org.uk).
For many of you who have not been able to attend our rallies and the Durham Gala in person, this year we hope you take advantage of the online platform and we look forward to spending the day with you at the Big Meeting. Solidarity forever!
Kate Flannery is secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.
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