Campaigners from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) and their supporters gathered outside parliament today, Tuesday, ahead of a meeting with home secretary Amber Rudd.
They want a public inquiry into the policing of miners at the Orgreave coking plant during the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike and the treatment of miners afterwards.
Police attacked a mass picket of the plant on 18 June 1984, then tried to frame miners for riot.
Striking miner Arthur Critchlow was there. He told Socialist Worker that police must be held accountable for their “brutality”.
“Why it was called a riot I’ll never know,” he said. “There was only one side rioting and it certainly wasn’t the miners.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and a number of Labour MPs joined the rally.
McDonnell told Socialist Worker, “What we want is justice – simple as that. Orgreave was an organised assault on working class people.”
Arthur’s skull was fractured at Orgreave and then he was charged with riot. “I went into hospital, had the fluid drained off and then was remanded into Armley jail,” he said.
He had to wait a year until the trial, which lasted 48 days before he was found not guilty. “It was stress you wouldn’t believe,” he said. “You picked the newspapers up and you had the home secretary Leon Brittan saying miners should have life imprisonment if found guilty.
“And because you’d seen all through the strike what the state can do, you believed it.”
Campaigners said the attack was deliberate. McDonnell said, “The Tory government was trying to smash the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). They thought if they could smash the NUM they could smash the trade union movement.
“That story needs to be told. We need an independent inquiry to enable that to happen. It isn’t just the role of the police, it’s the role of the whole establishment.”
Arthur pointed to evidence and allegations that police committed perjury, fabricated evidence and committed assault.
“Nobody’s ever been held to account,” he said. “It’s OK compensating people, but surely someone must be answerable.”
Many campaigners were optimistic. Mike Jackson from Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners told Socialist Worker, “The Hillsborough result adds a lot of weight to our case. I don’t see how the government can deny us an inquiry.”
And Joe Rollin from the OTJC added, “I feel like it’s the time for change now. A police officer on the news last night confirmed what we all knew about police falsifying evidence. Today’s meeting is a crunch moment for us.”