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Justice for the Shrewsbury pickets
WELL KNOWN actor and former industrial militant, Ricky Tomlinson, spoke at the highly successful Campaign for a New Workers' Party meeting in Liverpool on 12 February. A few weeks earlier Ricky had spoken at a meeting of nearly 200 trade unionists, mainly ex-building workers, assembled in Shotton.
This small North Wales industrial town was the scene of some of the trials of pickets who became known as the Shrewsbury 24 - to commemorate the workers' struggle during the 1972 national building workers' strike.
This meeting, organised by a re-vitalised Campaign for Justice for the Shrewsbury Pickets, was addressed by Arthur Scargill and by Ricky Tomlinson, one of the pickets.
Ricky related how he, Des Warren, and others who played a leading role during the strike were arrested after being 'fitted up' under the 1875 Conspiracy Act. The only real conspiracy was the one that took place between the employers, the Tory government and the state (particularly the judiciary).
The fact that one of the 24 accused was actually in hospital on the dates when the meetings of the alleged "conspirators" were supposed to have taken place was no bar to being prosecuted! Why let the facts get in the way of a "convenient frame-up?"
You could hear a pin drop as Ricky gave a harrowing and moving description of the fate of his friend and comrade Des Warren. Des had his life cut short by the state as result of persistent use of the 'liquid cosh' on him whilst in prison. Des Warren's doctor told him that the Parkinson's disease he suffered from was caused by 'therapy' he was given in prison.
"Because of his (Des's) and Ricky Tomlinson's insistence that they were political prisoners, they were persecuted by the prison authorities", says the 2007 preface to the reprinted pamphlet Shrewsbury: Whose Conspiracy?, written by Des in 1977.
Arthur Scargill, leader of the mineworkers during the momentous 1984/85 strike, gave further evidence of how the state apparatus acted on behalf of the ruling class regardless of whether Tory or Labour governments were elected.
The release of the Pentonville Five (five trade unionists arrested during the 1972 dock strike), only came about because of the threat of a general strike and not through any legal pleadings. The meeting heavily applauded Arthur's statement that "New Labour were the Tories Mark 2."
The Campaign for Justice for the Shrewsbury Pickets intends to hold meetings up and down the country to work to exonerate the Shrewsbury 24. It fully recognised the need to organise the now nearly one million building workers who, lacking trade union solidarity, suffer low wages, serious injury and death.
For info about the Campaign contact [email protected] or ring 07907 307835 for copies of the above-mentioned pamphlet and Campaign t-shirts available for £2 and £8 respectively.
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