I was on the miner's strike picket lines and stayed with a mining family in Barnsley in 1984. Walking up toward the pithead in the early morning was an amazing experience. There were lines of horses either side of the road in the fields, the steam coming from their nostrils. The workers were carrying marbles that they threw down as the horses can't walk well on them as horses were used as weapons. It was an amazing experience and transformed me politically in many ways. I think there were a couple thousand of us and a couple thousand cops. Some of the police were brought from Northern Ireland and were not wearing ID badges. It was there in a pub that I attended a socialist meeting and a young miner was giving a presentation on the toppling of Alllende by the US backed rightists and the room was full of workers, real working class people. I'd found a home. The Labor Party had soup kitchens where people ate and they tried to find what they called sea coal on the beaches. That Thatcher and her Yankee accomplice were right thugs.
Not unlike the revelations that the British state orchestrated the murder of Catholics in Derry in 1969, new documents have been discovered revealing the role of the police during the great British Miners Strike in 1984-85 in particular what is known as the Battle of Orgreave. Thousands of unarmed picketers were attacked by cops in riot gear and armed with batons. Below John Dunn, a retired member of the National Union of Miners welcomes the new information and shares his memory of those days. (Richard Mellor)
ORGREAVE - THE DEMAND FOR A PUBLIC INQUIRY
by John Dunn
ex Derbyshire NUM.
If anyone ever needed a reason for campaigning for justice for those involved in the Great Miners Strike of 1984/5, then Halloween 2016 provided it. Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, rises in the chamber of the House of Commons to announce that she sees “ no need for an enquiry into the events at Orgreave on June 18th 1984”.
She went on to explain her reasoning, “ it was a long time ago…. No one died...there was no miscarriage of justice...the police have learned lessons…”
The fact that 95 miners, dressed in tee shirts, shorts and trainers were arrested, beaten to the edge of death, framed, many imprisoned in Armley jail, alongside murderers and rapists, then charged with riot, which carried a life sentence, only to walk free after 15 months of hellish limbo, fearing life imprisonment after their trial collapsed when police collusion in writing identical statements and perjury were proven, meant nothing to Rudd. She represents a class that hates the working class and its' trade union movement, her predecessors in the Thatcher government, again representing their class, used every organ of the state to attack my union, the NUM.
Part of that attack was the orchestrated police riot of Orgreave on June 18th 1984, when 6000 police brutally attacked picketing miners, but, as miners we know that, in our communities, on a daily basis throughout that fateful year 1984-5 we experienced far more than miscarriages of justice. Orgreave, whilst being the most talked about event was just the most obvious tip of a mountain of attacks upon our union, our members, our families and our communities.
Police occupations of our villages, roadblocks, vicious attacks upon pickets and cavalry charges through our streets were the norm that fateful year.
For myself, the violence of the state was forcibly shown on April 9th 1984, at a picket at Cresswell Colliery. Walking back from the picket line I felt my head explode. With the world rapidly spinning and turning dark I fought to stay on my feet, fearful that I might never get up if I fell.
Turning I saw a policeman covered in blood. My blood! I was grabbed and thrown into a police bus. With blood pouring down my body and on the verge of passing out I was told I could "fucking bleed to death..."
Only the intervention of my late brother, branch delegate at Ireland Pit, forced them to take me to hospital. On arriving in the casualty department I was surrounded by 6 CID officers who forced a nervous doctor to sew me up without anaesthetic. I was then thrown into a cell with a stinking blanket.
After a doctor sympathetic to our fight told the police I was severely concussed and should be admitted to hospital they called out the police surgeon who gave me 2 aspirin and told them I needed constant observation.
That took the form of a banging on my cell door every 15-20 minutes with a shout of "Are you still alive?"
The next day I appeared in court, still covered in blood, to be charged with 'threatening behaviour' and, like all my fellow arrested pickets, placed on bail conditions preventing me from going anywhere near NCB property.
I will never forget the tears of my daughters when I returned home later that day, still covered in blood. That memory fuels my anger and determination.
I was eventually convicted of 'threatening behaviour' and the Victorian crime of 'watching and besetting'.
I was not unique, over 7000 of us were similarly convicted and injured. Over 11,000 pickets were arrested. 1000 were sacked and 2 pickets murdered.
The reality is our only crime was that of defending our jobs and communities. Our taste of British ‘justice’ meant that, where striking miners were concerned, we were, as Thatcher famously declared "The Enemy Within".
So in fighting for an inquiry into those awful events at Orgreave it means that we can open the door a little and begin to cast some light onto the whole Thatcher governments conspiracy against we miners and expose the massive injustices meted out to our union throughout that whole year.
It is too late to save our industry but an inquiry would mean we might then start to right all those terrible wrongs inflicted on our people and our communities. That is why I fight alongside my comrades in the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign and am proud to do so.
If the Tories thought that a statement in parliament would be the end of us, they are saddly wrong. Our crowning achievement since Halloween 2016 has been a commitment in the Labour Party Manifesto guaranteeing us, like all our fellow justice campaigners, to a full public enquiry. The election of Jeremy Corbyn, who supported us constantly throughout the strike, as LP leader has both ensured that and given a fillip to our struggle.
It has been a long and, at times lonely, struggle for 33 years, the strike may have been defeated but not we miners.
The lesson is simple, they only win if we give up.
Whilst we live we fight on. Thanks everyone for your ongoing support and solidarity
John Dunn ex Derbyshire NUM.