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THIS year we commemorate the 35th anniversary of Orgreave, the most violent assault by police on workers during an industrial dispute.
The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) continue to reaffirm our commitment to the fight for truth and justice.
Our vibrant, high profile and easily recognisable campaign was set up in 2012 to press for a public inquiry into the policing of miners picketing the Orgreave coking plant on June 18 1984, during the miners’ strike.
Striking miners, fighting for their jobs and communities, were brutalised by police and 95 were wrongfully arrested on spurious charges.
The court case the following year collapsed due to the falsification of police evidence and alleged perjury.
Neither the police nor the Tory government have ever admitted liability for assault, wrongful arrest and malicious prosecutions, and not one officer has ever been disciplined for any offence.
All who witnessed and experienced the systematic and violent police operations against the miners during the strike, will be aware that it was obvious that the Tory government had prepared and mobilised unprecedented resources to undermine, demoralise and discredit the miners, the National Union of Mineworkers and its leaders.
Theresa May’s government decided that government involvement in the 1984/5 miners’ strike and the police’s momentous misconduct at Orgreave can be left unaddressed. It believes there was no sufficient basis for an inquiry because it holds that there was no miscarriage of justice, there is nothing new for the police to learn, it was a long time ago and nobody died at Orgreave.
This is a disturbing conclusion of the miners’ ordeals. Miners were brutally beaten and attacked by police, falsely accused of crimes that could have meant a life in prison and injured and traumatised, causing lasting damage.
The media frenzy that followed the events at Orgreave continued to show what the Establishment was prepared to do to create and perpetuate a false narrative.
It would use every method available to distort the truth and report that the strike was a “war” between the NUM and the government.
The media frenzy that followed the events at Orgreave continued to
show what the Establishment was prepared to do to create and perpetuate a false narrative
It used text, phrases and images portraying miners as “the enemy” and justified the actions of the government and the police as honourable and virtuous. Orgreave was portrayed as a “battle” and miners described as “armies of pickets.”
Orgreave was no battle. It was a police riot, and miners dressed in jeans, trainers and T-shirts were no match for a militarised police force wearing riot gear, using weapons, dogs and horses.
Last year the Bishop of Sheffield, Peter Wilcox, offered to assist the Home Office in setting up an Orgreave Independent Panel, commissioned by the Home Office, arguing that it would be of real public benefit.
He had our support and the support of the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Billings, along with others who want to see this dealt with.
The bishop’s offer to have a full and authoritative review of what is held on record would have helped us to establish the facts.
The OTJC had high hopes that an approach from a bishop to the government would be a chance to get to the truth and help us with an inquiry.
However, the current Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has even rejected this offer and refuses to meet campaigners and MPs to discuss Orgreave on the basis that it “would not be beneficial.”
He has made it clear he upholds previous home secretary Amber Rudd’s decision not to hold any kind of inquiry.
Correspondence sent to the campaign from the Home Secretary is confusing, contains factual inaccuracies and gives difficult instructions on how we can access public records relating to Orgreave and the strike.
The explanation behind the rationale to embargo some files until 2066, when we will all be dead, is unintelligible.
Despite these predictable government tactics, our campaign for truth and justice goes from strength to strength. We have a huge presence online through our social media and web page as well as a physical presence at our many and varied meetings, debates, conferences, rallies, demonstrations and events.
We are constantly invited to speak at and be involved in art, theatre, gallery, community, trade union and labour movement meetings, exhibitions, events and activities throughout Britain and beyond including Eire, North of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Norway and Denmark.
We maintain links and solidarity with many other justice campaigns. We also have a firm commitment from the Labour Party and in its manifesto that there will be an Orgreave inquiry when it is in government.
The kindness and generosity shown to us by our many supporters is priceless and we really value and appreciate all the effort that is going in to helping us continually fundraise to help us with our campaigning.
It is clear that this Tory government will do all it can not to admit to any involvement in organised state violence, clandestine funding of strike breakers, electronic surveillance, deployment of agents provocateurs and other misconduct, malpractice and corruption during the miners’ strike.
This year is also the 200th anniversary of another infamous deployment of the forces of the state to squash popular protest, the Peterloo Massacre.
The parallels are terrifying.
We must not let Orgreave continue to be a historical injustice. We will get truth and justice only through fighting for it.
Today’s rally starts at 1pm at Orgreave Lane, Sheffield S13 9NE. To donate to OTJC email Orgreavejustice@hotmail.com
Contact Home Secretary Sajic Javid to demand an Orgreave Inquiry by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Flannery is the secretary of Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign https://otjc.org.uk
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