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We won’t rest until there is justice over Orgreave

We need an inquiry into police brutality against striking miners at Orgreave to establish the truth and enable our communities to have closure, says KATE FLANNERY

THE Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) was set up in 2012 to press for a public inquiry into what happened at Orgreave on June 18 1984 during the year-long miners’ strike against pit closures.

On that day the miners were ushered into a field near the Orgreave coking plant outside Rotherham in South Yorkshire by police.
It was a change from the normal practice of blocking access routes and turning miners away from picketing.

The pre-planned, ruthless violence used by the police against the miners, the subsequent arrests of 95 miners on fallacious charges, evidence of police fabricating evidence and lying under oath in court, alleged cover-ups and the courageous Hillsborough campaign were all reasons to establish the OTJC. 

An inquiry into government participation and police operations at Orgreave is necessary to establish truth and justice to enable miners and our communities to have closure and move forward.

What happened at Orgreave was not a battle but a rout. Dozens of mounted officers equipped with long truncheons charged up the field, followed by snatch squad officers in riot gear with shields.

Many miners were assaulted, many suffered serious injuries, many were arrested and detained. Several mounted police charges followed, forcing some miners up into Orgreave village. The police ran amok, clubbing and arresting miners indiscriminately.

The 95 men arrested and charged with riot and unlawful assembly waited almost a year for their trial, with all the worry and upset of possible prison sentences, some thinking they would receive life imprisonment.

The trial against the arrested miners in 1985 collapsed, but there has never been any accountability into the events of the day and afterwards.

No police officer is understood to have been disciplined for anything arising out of Orgreave for either the alleged assaults on miners or the allegations of fabricated evidence.

In October 2016 then home secretary Amber Rudd ruled out any type of inquiry into what happened at Orgreave, stating in Parliament that, “despite the forceful accounts and arguments provided by the campaigners and former miners who were present that day about the effect that these events have had on them, ultimately there were no deaths or wrongful convictions.”

The Labour Party, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, has made a firm commitment to an inquiry. The support from the Labour Party of today has given the OTJC political authority and backing, with Labour support for other justice campaigns in the party’s manifesto.

Many people have already attended one or more of our OTJC rallies, meetings or stunts, such as the anniversary rallies that have taken place since 2013, the Make Some Noise rally outside the Home Office and the Death of Justice rally. Many Labour MPs have not just made their voices heard in Parliament, be it in the various debates, by use of parliamentary petition and via the home affairs select committee, but have also attended and spoken at these events.

We are delighted to have in Diane Abbott a shadow home secretary who has stated that one of the first things she will do when Labour is in government is ensure there is an Orgreave inquiry.

Many Labour councils have shown solidarity with the OTJC by calling on the current Home Secretary to order an inquiry. We urge people to get their local council to do the same.

Support from the TUC and many trade unions, including the NUM, Unite, Aslef, BFAWU, RMT and GMB has been magnificent and uplifting.

Striking miners were brutalised by police all over Britain during the strike. The announcement in the Scottish Parliament last week to hold an independent review into the impact of policing during the miners’ strike in Scotland gives us real hope that an inquiry will be conducted into police brutality at Orgreave. Labour MSP Neil Findlay has fought long and hard to expose political involvement and police atrocities during the strike. 

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson MSP said doing nothing was not an option and urged the new Home Secretary Sajid Javid to follow suit.

In Scotland, miners were brutalised by police on many picket lines. The review will be led by John Scott QC and will make its recommendations by June next year.

The Welsh Assembly’s decision this week to write to the Home Secretary requesting an independent review into the policing of the miners’ strike in England and Wales also gives our campaign great hope that doors will be opened into an inquiry into Orgreave.

Mick Antoniw AM has campaigned for Orgreave justice and has been instrumental in ensuring the Welsh Assembly decision happened.

Our fight for an Orgreave inquiry continues with our high-profile protests, rallies, marches and stunts.

We have worked closely with and received support and solidarity from many other justice organisations, including Shrewsbury, Blacklisting, Spycops, Hillsborough, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and have attended and spoken at a number of political, trade union, trades council and academic meetings across Britain and abroad.

We receive regular invitations to trade union conferences and have speakers and stalls at the increasing number of May Day events and political festivals and we have increased our presence with student and young people’s organisations.

We have also had funding from donations and sales of merchandise with generous fundraising from many organisations and individuals. We have a high media profile both locally and nationally, printed press, TV, radio and social media.

We regularly meet and communicate with lawyers, politicians and trade unions and we are also excited to be at the Durham Gala and the Labour Party conference again this year.

We have come a long way, but winning truth and justice for what happened almost 34 years ago needs all of us to ensure this remains on the agenda. As long as this Tory government chooses to protect the legacy of the Thatcher government rather than allowing the open wound of Orgreave to heal, we will fight on.

Kate Flannery is secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

The OTJC anniversary march and rally is today at Orgreave Lane, Sheffield S13 9NE at 1pm with a number of high-profile speakers. Supporters are encouraged to bring along banners, placards, drums, whistles and friends and family. We will continue to show the government we will not be silenced. Led by the Unite brass band we will march through Orgreave. For more information email: orgreavejustice@hotmail.com, follow on Twitter @orgreavejustice or Instagram: www.instagram.com/orgreavetruthandjustice.

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