By New Worker
CAMPAIGNERS from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) came to Westminster on Tuesday to lobby the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, for a full public inquiry into the police riot at Orgreave coking plant in 1884, during the great miners’ strike.
The campaigners included Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and a broad spectrum of Labour MPs including John McDonnell, Dennis Skinner, Diane Abbott, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Peter Hain and Hilary Benn.
The National Union of Miners (NUM) had assembled around 5,000 pickets outside Orgreave coking plant to block lorries taking coke from the plant to a British Steel plant. But police had deployed around 6,000 officers, including mounted police.
Police held the pickets in a field opposite the plant, completely surrounded with no exit. As the lorries approached the plant the unarmed pickets surged forward to block the gates by sheer weight of numbers.
South Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Clement ordered a mounted charge against them. The miners responded by throwing stones and other missiles at the police lines.
Clement ordered two further mounted advances and the third advance was supported by "short shield" snatch squads who followed the mounted police, "delivering baton beatings to the unarmed miners."
There followed a lull of several hours, during which many pickets left the scene. By now "massively outnumbering" the pickets, the police advanced again and launched another mounted charge.
The police pursued the pickets out of the field and into Orgreave village where Clement ordered a "mounted police canter", which Tristram Hunt, MP for Stoke-on-Trent, described as an "out-of-control police force charging pickets and onlookers alike through the village.
After the one-sided battle 71 pickets were charged with riot and 24 with violent disorder At the time, riot was punishable by life imprisonment. The trials collapsed when the evidence given by the police was deemed "unreliable".
Gareth Peirce, who acted as solicitor for some of the men, said that the charge of riot had been used "to make a public example of people, as a device to assist in breaking the strike," while lawyer Michael Mansfield called it "the worst example of a mass frame-up in this country this century.”
In 1991, South Yorkshire Police paid £425,000 in compensation to 39 miners for assault, wrongful arrest, unlawful detention and malicious prosecution.
The BBC and other media misrepresented the battle by reversing the sequence – showing miners throwing stones before showing the police charging them, making it appear that it was the miners who had sparked the violence.
The OTJC presented a legal submission to Theresa May when she was Home Secretary last December 2015 outlining the case.
Kevin Horne, who was one of the picketing miners at the Orgreave coking plant, said: "Expectations in the mining communities are that a public inquiry will finally mean justice for Orgreave. It is also essential that public trust in the police is rebuilt."
The campaigners claim there was a “pre-planned, militarised police operation” and extensive violence against miners, leading to what they say were 95 wrongful arrests and prosecutions based on a falsified narrative.
The OTJC Secretary, Barbara Jackson, said: "The previous Home Secretary and the current Home Secretary have had ample time to read through and consider our legal submission. A response was expected by March this year. We are therefore hopeful that an inquiry decision is imminent."