Peter Lazenby writes:
Ex-miners, campaigners and trade unionists raised their banners at the weekend as they marched to the site of the former Orgreave coke works in South Yorkshire where one of the state’s most brutal acts against workers took place 34 years ago.
On June 18 1984, police attacked miners striking to defend their jobs, the coal pits and their communities.
On Saturday, an annual march to the site was staged by the Orgreave Truth & Justice Campaign, which is demanding a public inquiry into the attack and the Tory government’s complicity in it. More than 300 ex-miners, their families and supporters took part in the event.
The rally was addressed by speakers from the labour and trade union movement, who pledged support to the campaign for truth and justice. Shadow business minister and Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough MP Gill Furniss told the gathering:
“I am the widow of a Nottinghamshire miner who stood with the union throughout the strike.
“Orgreave was the most violent event in British industrial history. The government had decided to make a public example of the miners.”
Chris Peace, a leading Orgreave campaign activist and Labour’s candidate for North East Derbyshire, read out a message from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.
They pledged that one of the first acts of a new Labour government would be to order a public inquiry into what happened at Orgreave.
President of the Durham Miners’ Association Joe Whitworth recalled how his own village in the Durham region was subjected to a violent police invasion, as were many other mining communities during the strike.
“This was in a sophisticated so-called democratic state, because of Thatcher,” he said. “Orgreave and attacks on mining communities were organised political violence.”
But he said the culture and values of mining communities continue through the annual Durham Miners’ Gala, which takes place this year on July 14.
Messages of support came from other campaigners, including those seeking justice for the Shrewsbury pickets, victims of blacklisting and those campaigning to expose the activities of spycop officers who went under cover to infiltrate more than 1,000 activist groups.