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19 June 2019

Orgreave injustice - 35th anniversary march and rally

Alistair Tice, Yorkshire Socialist Party secretary

The 35th anniversary of the "Battle of Orgreave" was marked on Saturday 15 June with the biggest turnout yet of around 500 demonstrators, on what has become an annual march for "Truth and Justice".

During the historic year-long miners' strike of 1984-85 to save pits, jobs and communities, the Orgreave coking plant just outside Rotherham/Sheffield was the scene on 18 June 1984 of an organised police riot against striking miners who were trying to stop lorries taking coke to the steelworks in Scunthorpe.

Police ambush

In what was a 'set up' on the day, 6,000 officers commanded by the now infamous South Yorkshire police subjected hundreds of striking miners to mounted charges.

Many pickets were hit, beaten and seriously injured by police on horses and on foot wielding their batons.

95 miners were arrested, and most prosecuted for the offence of riot, which carried a potential life sentence in prison. The police withdrew the prosecution 48 days into the trial, after a succession of police officers were accused of lying and presenting false evidence, including the forgery of a signature on a statement.

No inquiry was held, no police officer was ever disciplined for any offence, and no officer resigned.

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) began its campaign for a full public inquiry in 2012, since which successive Tory home secretaries have continued to protect the Thatcher Tory government and police from being exposed. In October 2016, Home Secretary Amber Rudd refused an inquiry because "nobody died"!

Well, as ex-miner John Dunn said at the rally on behalf of OTJC: "Thatcher is dead but we are still here and growing in numbers."

The Orgreave campaign has become a rallying point for some of the most combative sections of the trade union movement and has won a commitment that a future Jeremy Corbyn-led government will hold a full public inquiry.