Orgreave 40 years on

Orgreave 40th anniversary: Labour commits to inquiry as new documentary film released

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Unite has welcomed Labour’s manifesto commitment to a public inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave, when forty years ago police forces brutally assaulted striking pickets near Sheffield.

The Battle of Orgreave is considered a pivotal moment in the 1984-85 miners’ strike, after which dozens of pickets were arrested on trumped up charges following the police attack, with the South Yorkshire Police fabricating evidence to cover up police violence. 

Although charges against the pickets were later dropped, the police were never held accountable. What’s more, evidence that’s emerged in the intervening years suggests that the mass police assault may in fact have been coordinated by the then-Conservative government. 

Labour’s commitment to a public inquiry in its manifesto launched this week comes as the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) has organised a rally in Sheffield on Saturday (June 15) to mark the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Orgreave, which took place on June 18.

Unite organiser Joe Rollin, who is also OTJC chair, welcomed Labour’s commitment but warned that the public inquiry must be a fully independent and effective one.

“We’ve had public inquiries before – including Hillsborough, Grenfell and many others – which have led campaigners up the hill only to let them down at the very end,” Joe told UniteLive.

“Any public inquiry into Orgreave cannot follow in the steps of these. It must be a robust one, where those who have committed grave injustices are actually held accountable for their actions.”

Also marking the 40th anniversary is the release of a new feature-length documentary film Strike: An Uncivil War directed by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Daniel Gordon.  Following the film’s premiere on June 16 at Sheffield Doc Fest, there will be a series of special preview screenings on June 18 and 19 before a wider release later in June.

Filmmaker and author Morag Livingstone, whose research was used in the documentary, urged Unite members to go see the film.

“The film has managed to balance eyewitness accounts with newly found archive footage and research very well,” she told UniteLive. “Orgreave represents one of the most serious abuses of power by police and government in this country’s industrial and trade union history, the truth of which has never been told or acknowledged by the State. Instead, successive Conservative governments and senior police have worked to cover it up. It is important that the truth is established and the film goes a long way in doing that.”

Both Morag and Joe highlighted that what happened at Ogreave 40 years ago is now more relevant than ever.

Morag said, “The ability to protest, to have our voices heard, is generally under threat. This is particularly connected to our ability to take collective action and strike effectively. Over decades government and police have not been held accountable for a myriad of actions unbecoming of public office – instead their powers in relation to protest have been increased. This film, particularly the miners’ testimony, brings to the fore why it is important to look at the past to understand and solve the challenges we are facing today.”

Joe agreed.

“Even though we’re 40 years on from Orgreave, we need to learn the lessons of the past,” he said. “Only in the last few years, successive Tory governments have gone down a sinister path of pushing through ever-more draconian anti-protest and anti-strike laws. It shows that Orgreave is not some distant event consigned to history. Workers’ struggle is still as relevant today as it was 40 years ago.”

You can find out more about the Orgreave Rally, and how you can attend, here.

Full listings of UK-wide screenings of Strike: an Uncivil War, including links to buy tickets, can be found here. You can watch a trailer of the film here.

By Hajera Blagg

Pictured, miners who appear in the film Strike: an Uncivil War alongside production crew, photo by Michael Donald ©