The miners' strike 1984-5

Submitted by Anon on 6 March, 2004 - 8:46

A look back at the events of May-June and the Battle for Orgreave.
May 29-18 June: Thousands of pickets and police fight battles outside Orgreave coking plant, near Sheffield. Coke runs from Orgreave were suspended on 18 June.

30 May: Major confrontations at Orgreave. 82 arrests including Arthur Scargill, 62 injured.

31 May: 3,200 police in riot gear at Orgreave confont unarmed strikers.

7 June: Transport unions agree to not only boycott coal and coke, but also to block substitute oil movements. By 13 July only 10 coal trains are running daily in Britain out of a normal 356. House of Commons debate on the miners' strike. Thousands march to lobby Parliament. 100 arrests.

15 June: Joe Green, miner, is crushed to death on picket duty at Ferry Bridge.

18 June: The battle of Orgreave. Police run amok. 93 arrests and many injuries.

25 June: Railworkers stop iron ore supplies to Llanwern steel works in South Wales, on 28 June to Ravenscraig.

The battle for Orgreave

Extract from The Battle for Orgreave by Bernard Jackson, a miner who, with 14 others, was arrested on 18 June, charged with riot and put on trial. Here he describes the day.

At Orgreave, the push against the police lines always happened either when the lorries were arriving or leaving. We had never broken though but whenever it looked as though we were getting the better of it the truncheons came out, crack, crack, crack, on to heads, steel-gloved fists shot out of the line into the nearest faces and police boots smashed into the shins of the front line of pickets.

As they went down the ones behind fell over them and so, usually in a minute or less, the push would stop and the pickets back off.

Around 8am on this morning the push had gone as normal but that's where any similarity with other days ended. Shortly after the first push the long shields parted and out rode fourteen mounted police straight inot the pickets. As they did, police in the line beat on their riot shields with truncheons, creating a wall of noise which was meant to intimidate and frighten.

Within minutes the shields parted again and the cavalry started on its second charge, already at a fast canter as they burst through the gap in the wall of plastic.

By about 9.30am the tactics changed again and this time when the shields parted it was police support units with riot gear, drawn truncheons and short shields which emerged. They were only concerned with injuring. It made no difference if pickets stood still, raised their hands or ran away; truncheons were used on arms and legs, trucks and shoulder, and particularly on heads and faces. Men lay around unconscious or semi-conscious with vicious wounds on their bodies and heads.

Around 10.30am there was a lull. The pickets had dwindled to a few hundred. Men had their shirts off and were sitting around on the flattened corn in small groups. One or two were sunbathing, a few were playing football. It seemed incredible that a field, which, half an hour before, had contained all the elements of a medieval battle, had become a picnic area.

Without warning the plastic flank of the police parted and through the hole created came dashing the riot clad PSUs. Instead of imply felling people, they now felled them and dragged them back through the lines.

An arm grabbed me around the neck from behind and I was smashed in the face with a riot shield. He encircled my neck with his other arm, took his truncheon in both hands and squeezed.

"Get bloody off, what's up with thee?" I tried to shout through gritted teeth.

"Shut your fucking mouth, or I'll break your fucking neck."

It wasn't something I could really argue with.

As I was dragged through the cordon the coppers nearest lashed out with their truncheons: "Bastard miner", "Ficking Yorkie miner". Fists, boots or truncheons, it didn't matter so long as they could have a go at you.

The movement up the field which resulted in my arrest had been planned beforehand and was going to be executed come what may. It was intended to be the final battle for Orgreave but a battle in which one side was unarmed and unprepared. Only the fact that most pickets had wandered away or had gone for a tea break prevented a much bloodier outcome.

My possessions were removed and recorded and I was escorted out to a transit van. I sat there for about thirty minutes while the van filled up with arrested pickets, nearly all of them bleeding. The van's radio crackled away given a virtual running commentary on the police deployments and strategy.

Eventually we were put into a pig bus [mobile prison] and taken to Rotherham. So successful had been their haul that all the cells in Rotherham were full and the twenty or thirty of us from Sheffield were placed in an outside compound. Its walls were solid, topped with a row of short bars all the way round, just below the roof. There was no visibility at all. I was surrounded by bleeding and injured men, some of them old, some of them young and many of them frightened.

[The next day the men were charged and sent to Rotherham Court.] The prosecuting solicitor, took off his half-glasses, placed them on the desk and read out the charge. I was a Rioter. I had terrified Her Majesty's subjects. A catalogue of events was described - wires across the road, barricades, fire - nearly all of them events which had happened after my arrest. He painted a picture of me as a cross between Adolf Hitler and the Yorkshire Ripper.

[Bernard was remanded to jail but managed to get bail seven days later.]

The anger I felt was the anger of injustice. I felt anger towards the media who had consistently chosen selectively, right from the start of the strike, what they pictured and what they reported. How many pictures had been shown of a poor bleeding policeman, when for every policeman there were a hundred injured pickets - fractured skulls, fractured arms and legs, split skulls and livid truncheon weals.

I felt anger at the state which had not only allowed this to happen but was obviously pulling the strings.

I felt anger at the men who should have been supporting us, the Kinnocks and the Willises, pompously condemning picket line violence when they had never been near on or near a picket line.

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