Friday, 4 April 2014

OTJC holds lively picket of IPCC

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) mobilised a hundred people for a picket of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) offices in Wakefield on March 28.

The OTJC is disappointed over the time it is taking the IPCC to decide whether to launch a full investigation into the activities of South Yorkshire Police (SYP) at Orgreave coking works near Rotherham in 1984. 

On 18 June 1984, 95 miners were arrested at Orgreave after thousands of police officers many in riot gear, with others on horseback - brutally assaulted miners participating in a year-long strike aimed at defending jobs and mining communities. 

However when the subsequent court cases took place all of the charges which included, in many cases, riot were abandoned when it became clear that the polices oral and written evidence was unreliable. Each prosecution had been supported by two police officers making near-identical statements. Later, SYP paid out £425,000 in compensation to 39 pickets in out of court settlements. Nevertheless, no police officers were disciplined for misconduct or charged for the injuries they caused to those they attacked.

It was in November 2012 that SYP referred itself to the IPCC to decide whether there should be a full investigation into what happened at Orgreave on 18 June and in the earlier picketing at the plant in May/June. 

Over sixteen months later the IPCC appears to have undertaken a very limited investigation into events at Orgreave. Much of the information it now possesses has been supplied to it by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and radical solicitor Gareth Pierce. The OTJC therefore remains concerned that no officers will face charges of assault, perjury, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in a public office. 

Amongst the demonstrators was Kevin Horne, a former miner who was arrested on 18 June 1984. Charged with obstruction this was later upped to the more serious charge of unlawful assembly before being dropped. “Orgreave was a rotten experience. Especially on 18 June when we were faced with huge columns of police, some with dogs and others on horseback. I saw some terrible injuries.”

Horne is now a Unison member and employed by Doncaster Care UK. He is amongst the 100 workers there who have taken two seven-day strikes in protest at having their terms and conditions slashed when Doncaster Labour-led council handed the Supported Living Service Contract to the lowest bidder rather than continue with the NHS. Doncaster Care UK bid for the work was £6.4 million, £2 million below the previous budget. “It is clear all concerned must have known that the new contract would lead to an attack on workers’ terms and conditions” said Kevin.

The Yorkshire area NUM banner was on display at the picket. Also in attendance was the NUM general secretary, Chris Kitchen, who said: “The IPCC needs to decide whether it can investigate or not. They are afraid that the trail will lead back to 10 Downing Street and prove that the strike was orchestrated from there with the intention of demolishing trade unionism and socialism in this country. 

"Our strike still has strong resonance today when workers facing unemployment and wage cuts will be forced to take strike action to defend their quality of life and rights. They should not have to fight the state when they do so.

"What happened at Orgreave also has importance to what occurred at the Hillsborough football tragedy in 1989. The links must be investigated.” 

Kitchen welcomed the recent call by the Labour Party for the government to set out all the details of the interactions between Margaret Thatcher’s government and the police during the 1984-85 miners’ strike. Labour also wants a ‘proper investigation’ into Orgreave. 

OTJC secretary Barbara Jackson said: “The turnout has been really good and there has been some inspiring speeches. The IPCC has said they will make an announcement on their intentions before 18 June. Whatever decision they take will not deflect us from continuing our fight for a public inquiry into Orgreave.”

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