The Socialist 13 June 2018 |
Join the Socialist
| Audio | PDF | ebook
In the words of Amber Rudd, "no one died at Orgreave"
Riot police attacked a mass picket of the Orgreave coking plant in 1984, photo West Midlands Police (Creative Commons) (Click to enlarge)
Tim Jones (Sheffield North Socialist Party) and Kate Flannery (secretary, Orgreave Truth & Justice Campaign)
In October 2016, the then home secretary Amber Rudd announced that the Conservative government would not hold a public inquiry into what took place at Orgreave on 18 June 1984, telling the House of Commons "no one died at Orgreave."
Orgreave was the site of the British Steel coking plant that striking miners were mass picketing during the 1984-5 miners' strike. On that day the miners were ushered into a field near the plant by police. It was a change from the normal practice of blocking access routes and turning miners away from picketing.
They were surrounded by police on horseback and police dressed in riot gear, banging their truncheons on their riot shields. The state sent in the police in order to carry out orchestrated violence against these miners who were defending their livelihoods, communities and future generations.
Many of those miners have lived with mental scars and physical marks of brutality, not to mention criminal records which they were forced to declare to potential future employers. They have been branded by the state as thugs.
On that stifling hot June day the pickets were wearing t-shirts, jeans and trainers, they were no match for the police ranks in visor helmets. The media reporting of Orgreave gave the impression that police violence was a response to unprovoked violence from the miners' side.
This was propaganda used to demonise the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the trade unions that has had lasting implications. 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.
An inquiry into the policing of Orgreave and the miners' strike should clarify why, how and who made the decisions to police the miners' strike in the way it was policed. This will help to ensure that the miners and mining communities get the truth and justice they deserve.
Michael Mansfield QC, who represented a number of miners at Orgreave, stated that "the blatant unaccountability and virtual immunity of officers on that day cannot be allowed to continue." Mark George, a criminal barrister said it was "not unacceptable at the time for officers to pool their recollections" to ensure accuracy. However, he added "when the copying is as blatant as it was in this case it smacks of manufacturing an account that suited the narrative the police wished to present. If that was the case and it was an untrue account, it amounts to perverting the course of justice."
Today the area around Orgreave has undergone redevelopment. But so toxic is the name 'Orgreave' the housing development there has been called 'Waverley'. The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign organises a march every year to commemorate what happened at Orgreave and demand a public inquiry.
Come along and support the annual Orgreave rally this year commemorating the 34th anniversary. Saturday 16 June, 1pm, Orgreave Lane, Sheffield, S13 9NE. Please bring banners, placards, drums, whistles, friends and family! Let's show the government we won't be silenced! Led by the Unite brass band.