“We want the truth to come out about the policing at Orgreave”
THE SO-CALLED “Battle of Orgreave” is down in the history of industrial conflict in Britain as one of the most vicious acts of violence by the state against its own people.
Miners peacefully picketing Orgreave cokeworks outside Rotherham in South Yorkshire were charged by baton-wielding mounted police.
Police on foot followed through with dogs, beating fleeing miners from behind.
The attack was planned in advance. Miners arriving for the picket had been directed by police into an area where they were surrounded on three sides. The attack was then launched.
The miners rallied and understandably responded, hurling stones, wood and anything else they could lay their hands on. Notoriously BBC TV reversed the sequence of events in its coverage of the incident, showing film of miners attacking first, and police appearing to respond by charging.
Ninety-five miners were arrested and charged with riot – an offence which can carry a life sentence. Yet when the first batch of 15 went to court every case was thrown out. Defence lawyers showed that police had corroborated evidence. Police had to pay compensation to miners falsely charged.
Yet to this day no police officer has been charged with any offence. Now that may change.
In 1989 South Yorkshire police were involved in the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool United fans were killed at Sheffield Wednesday’s football ground. Police blamed fans for the disaster. The persistence of relatives of the dead over the next 23 years resulted in an independent inquiry which discovered evidence of a cover-up by South Yorkshire Police. Now their role at Hillsborough is under official investigation.
The success of the Liverpool campaign prompted the launch of a demand for a similar investigation into what happened at Ogreave, the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign. An on-line petition, email address and a Facebook Page has also been launched.
South Yorkshire Police has responded to the Orgreave campaign by referring itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, but the Orgreave campaigners want a full public inquiry.
There have been calls for a far wider investigation into police behaviour throughout the 1984-5 miners’ strike against pit closures, during which mining communities were invaded by police and people attacked. But the Orgreave campaigners are maintaining a single purpose – demanding a public inquiry into what happened at Orgreave.
The campaigners have been boosted by support from the people who ran the Hillsborough campaign, the “common denominator,” as they call it, being South Yorkshire Police.
Barbara Jackson was a white-collar worker with the National Coal Board in Sheffield at the time of the strike, and was herself on strike for the full years. She is the instigator and of the Orgreave campaign.
Barbara said: “We want the truth to come out about the policing at Orgreave and the collusion in statement recording. This is not a case of a few bad policemen deciding on the day to behave badly. Decisions on how to police, not only Orgreave but the whole of the strike were co-ordinated at the top of the police force and indeed the Thatcher Government of the time may be implicated in these decisions. We believe that if the truth is revealed justice must follow from that.”
The online petition has attracted over 1000 signatures.