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1984: Miners and police clash at Orgreave

VIDEO : Footage of the picket line battle

Police have used riot gear for the first time since the miners' strike began three months ago.

Forming the biggest picket of the strike so far, at least 5,000 miners gathered outside Orgreave coking plant near Sheffield.


"The intimidation and the brutality that has been displayed are something reminiscent of a Latin American state"

Arthur Scargill, NUM leader

They were met by police from ten counties. Altogether, 41 police officers and 28 strikers were injured.

During fierce clashes with police 81 people were arrested.

Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Miners, had called on miners to picket the plant to try and stop British Steel's coke convoys.

He stood among his men as hundreds of police formed lines around the miners to try to stop them getting to the coke lorries.

Trouble broke out when pickets spotted the first convoy at about 0900 BST. They surged forward and there were running battles with police on horseback.

Smoke bombs, bricks, stones and ball-bearings were thrown and fencing torn up. Ambulance men wearing protective headgear led casualties away to safety.

Both sides pinned the blame on each other.

"We've had riot shields, we've had riot gear, we've had police on horseback charging into our people, we've had people hit with truncheons and people kicked to the ground." said Mr Scargill.

"The intimidation and the brutality that has been displayed are something reminiscent of a Latin American state."

South Yorkshire Chief Constable Peter Wright said officers had to wear protective helmets and use shields to allow the gates of the factory to remain open.

Mr Scargill is hoping to repeat the success of 12 years ago, when his pickets stopped coke deliveries at Saltley gasworks in Birmingham in his struggle to improve the lot of British miners.

But this time he seems to have failed - the 34 lorry drivers today managed to make two journeys unhindered and say they are determined to continue the coke runs.

In Context
The miners' dispute began on 6 March 1984 when the head of the National Coal Board, Ian McGregor, announced plans to cut production, the equivalent of 20 pits or 20,000 jobs.

Arthur Scargill called on miners to strike as they had done successfully in 1972 and 1974. But his refusal to hold a ballot lost him the support of other unions.

Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative government would not be defeated this time and had a concerted plan of action.

Coal was stockpiled and imported and a National Reporting Centre was set up to co-ordinate Britain's regional police force. This allowed officers to be deployed quickly to trouble spots to tackle Mr Scargill's flying pickets, sent all over the country to persuade workers to down tools.

On-off talks between an uncompromising Arthur Scargill and the NCB came to nothing. The pickets failed to stop or even restrict power supplies to the nation.

Miners finally returned to work in March 1985.


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