In the aftermath of the revelations presented by the Hillsborough Independent Panel (read report here ) we publish here the thoughts of a Liverpool supporter Mike Jones who speaks for many in the city of Liverpool about the reaction to what the report findings have now officially confirmed.
As a lifelong Liverpool supporter and season ticket holder I was 15 at the time of the Hillsborough disaster and thankfully I didn’t have a ticket and didn’t go to Sheffield that day. Instead like millions of others I saw the horrors unfold on the TV seeing one of my school mates being dragged out over the 10ft high spiked perimeter fencing that was keeping supporters who were being crushed penned in. He had gone with another of my school friends whose 11 year old brother had died in a car crash only the year before. I can’t imagine how his mum and dad must have been feeling as they waited anxiously to hear that he was ok. The trauma of that day meant that these two young boys had a lot of time off school and didn’t speak about ‘that day’ – but these were the lucky ones.
I have many other friends who I go to games with now who were there. We often speak about getting justice for what happened but rarely speak about the details of what people saw. It was only in 2005 after the European Cup final in Istanbul that one of my friends was able to begin to talk about things which then all flooded out like a tidal wave. He wrote a heartbreaking personal account of his experiences. This article was posted on a number of Liverpool FC fans forums and was recently reproduced on the front page of the Daily Mirror website. See http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/hillsborough-documents-released-survivor-damian-1317380
With the Hillsborough Independent Panel report and the disclosure of thousands of documents relating to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster the truth that Liverpool fans were in no way to blame is finally beyond doubt.
On 15 April 1989, thousands of Liverpool fans made their way to Sheffield for the FA Cup Semi final against Nottingham Forest. As they set off on that sunny Saturday morning in high spirits with the sole intention of watching a football match none of them could have imagined what tragic events they would experience on that day or what would follow in the days afterwards or in the subsequent 23 years.
Liverpool fans in the central pen of Leppings Lane End at the Hillsborough ground were caught up in a crush that resulted in the deaths of 94 people on the day. Four days later, on 19 April, the death toll reached 95 when a 14-year-old boy Lee Nicol – attached to a life support machine – succumbed to the crush injuries he had received at Hillsborough. The final death toll reached 96 in March 1993, when artificial feeding and hydration of 22-year-old Tony Bland was withdrawn after nearly four years in a coma.
The Hillsborough disaster remains the deadliest stadium-related disaster in British history.
In a harrowing assessment the report, compiled by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, revealed for the first time that as many as 41 of the 96 people who died could have survived had the emergency response to the disaster been adequate.
Despite this terrible loss of life, the pain and anguish of the families, friends and the suffering of the community, on 19 April, four days after the disaster, the rag that is still not bought on Merseyside, The S*n (owned by Rupert Murdoch) and the then Editor Kelvin MacKenzie, used "THE TRUTH" as the front page headline, followed by three sub-headlines: "Some fans picked pockets of victims", "Some fans urinated on the brave cops" and "Some fans beat up a PC giving kiss of life."
The tabloid cited the words of unnamed police sources and a Conservative MP for information relating to the alleged incidents.
The story accompanying these headlines claimed that "drunken Liverpool fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims" and "police officers, firemen and ambulance crew were punched, kicked and urinated upon." A quotation, attributed to an unnamed policeman, claimed a dead girl had been "abused", and that Liverpool fans were "openly urinating on us and the bodies of the dead."
This was in fact all LIES spread by Tory politicians and senior police in order to divert attention from their failings and their disastrous actions.
It is no surprise that that those individuals like David Duckenfield, chief superintendent in charge of policing at Hillsborough and his deputy superintendent Bernard Murray who was in control of the control room at the ground along with Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and their wretched servants in the media looked to blame ordinary working class fans and set about a slur campaign with a state ‘cover-up’. All of these had history. It has to be remembered that it was the South Yorkshire Police force that Thatcher had relied on to put down striking Miners just 5 years before. After both Orgreave and Hillsborough, South Yorkshire police – under its chief constable, Peter Wright was accused of concerted fabrications of evidence against the miners and Liverpool supports respectively.
At Orgreave in 1985, South Yorkshire police claimed that they had been attacked by striking miners, and prosecuted 95 people for riot and unlawful assembly, offences that carried potential life sentences. All were acquitted, after defence lawyers argued that police evidence was false, fabricated and that an officer’s signature on a statement was forged.
It has long been established that the police's loss of control at Hillsborough, and specifically the decision to open an exit gate (that they claimed at the time was forced open) and allow Liverpool fans into an already over-crowded central terrace, caused the disaster.
In the aftermath, however, police blamed drunk and ticketless fans, an account that has now been comprehensively and definitively exposed as a deliberate attempt to shift the blame.
The fight for justice
Although many in Liverpool and elsewhere have know the real truth for a long time, the search to expose the truth has not been easy. It is a disgrace that it has taken 23 years to finally come out.
Even after the Lord Justice Taylor's highly critical report was published soon after the disaster no prosecutions’ were ever successfully brought against those in charge. It was clear that there was a cover-up.
The Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) was set up in order to help those affected by the disaster and seek answers to what happened that day. Unfortunately this was taken over by people who would only allow family members of those who died to join. A split occurred with people who wanted to broaden the membership to involve survivors and others who wanted to help find the truth. The Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) was established. This group was all inclusive and wanted anyone to help – however much or little anyone could do. They sought to challenge the state and right the lies that had been spread. It resulted in the HFSG being favoured by ‘the establishment’ being seen as a safe pair of hands. They were welcomed onto ‘the inside’ by Liverpool Football Club Executives and others while the HJC was excluded.
The Hillsborough Justice Campaign began to build as it linked into the grass roots supporters who wanted to get involved and to take direct action to expose the lies of the police, politicians and the press. Posters, badges, t-shirts, scarves, leaflets, and stickers were produced and distributed. This still happens at every game right up to this day. Demonstrations and marches were organised, music concerts with famous bands and local groups were put on to take the message to a wider audience, and protests took place inside Anfield with fans holding up posters or forming mosaics. The fans took on taking the message into their union branches and into the Labour Party by moving motions. Speakers were invited to union conferences and many unions now affiliate to the campaign. It has been this concerted direct action that has kept the issues in the public eye which has built the pressure to force the government to finally release these documents.
These latest developments should be celebrated. However David Cameron’s apology rings hollow when you remember his comments in October 2011 when referring to the continued campaign to seek the truth and for justice when he said “It’s like a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there.” Well there was other evidence to be exposed. Evidence of falsehoods from within his party, evidence of falsification of police statements, evidence of lies within the media.
It is now clear that there has been an attempt to pervert the course of justice by those in authority which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. There are also calls for prosecutions of manslaughter to be brought against those in charge on the day.
With the truth the next stage must now be for justice to be delivered. The fight for justice therefore goes on.
http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk/ (The full text of the report and links to other material)