Justice for the 96. Don’t buy the Sun. The Hillsborough Football Disaster: Context & Consequences

“Why does Hillsborough get remembered in this way, when other disasters generally don’t? Well possibly because in those other disasters there was not a concerted and continuing attempt to smear the people who died as not only the authors of their own misfortune, but as thieving, drunken hooligans. Not the victims of King’s Cross, not the victims of Piper Alpha. Not even, as it happens, the victims of Valley Parade or other football stadium disasters (Ibrox, the recent Ivory Coast diaster, and so on). Any number of nightclub fires, where, almost inevitably, doors turn out to have been locked and chained: similarly fires in hostels. The deaths of the Chinese cockle pickers off the Lancashire coast not long ago. So many African would-be immigrants, drowned trying to reach Italy or Spain. Many dreadful incidents of many different types.

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Everybody understands, however difficult it may be to accept it, that sometimes there are disasters and large numbers of people die, in anguished and anguishing circumstances. Very often the authorities are culpable to some degree or another and people’s distress at the deaths is likely to be exacerbated by the failure to prosecute those responsible and quite often to cover up for them. (This is true of nearly all the specific instances We mention above.) This happened with Hillsborough in a very big way, but as We say, in itself that’s not so unusual. But the smear campaign against the dead, the deliberate unleashing of prejudice and dissemination of lies, the mobilisation of all sorts of prejudice against the victims – We can recall nothing that’s been even close to this. Nothing. A huge mountain of lies, insinuations and sheer outright prejudiced hatred, which is still being added to.

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If this weren’t the case, It’s quite likely that the grieving and the marking of anniversaries would not have quite the same prominence as it has. It would still be large and significant, because we mark in particular those tragedies which seem to touch us, and this one touched two large and particular groups: people who are from Liverpool and people who are football supporters.

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But mostly, you know, it was the lies, and the acceptability of the lies, the way it’s considered all right to repeat these lies and the way it’s considered acceptable to attack people for grieving. That’s what gives this one event its particular magnitude. That’s why if you talk to many people from Liverpool, or many people who were involved in football supporters’ organisations at the time, you’ll notice how angry they still are. Because from too many people, there was no respect for them and no respect for the dead.”

20 years on from The Hillsbouge disaster, we should never forgive nor forget, and those who acted as they did are free to collect there pensions, those they killed on that are not, from Ian Tomlison to Blair Peach, this is how the working class are treated, like scum.

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Victims of lessons unlearned from Burnden Park, from Ibrox, from Bradford Valley Parade. Victims of a mentality that saw normal people who love football as turnstile fodder who’d pay to watch their team in intolerably unsafe conditions. Victims of a police culture which saw football fans as a problem to be contained rather than human beings who deserved to be kept safe at the match. They just wanted to support their team with their families and their mates and trusted the host club and the authorities to know what they were doing.

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The police, clubs and football authorities were warned. 25 people died at Ibrox in 1902 when terracing collapsed, 33 crushed to death at Burnden Park in 1946, 66 crushed on the stairway at Ibrox in 1971, 56 burned alive at Valley Parade in 1985. Countless other smaller incidents and near misses, including a similar incident at the same end of Hillsborough in 1981 when the only reason there weren’t fatalities was that fans could escape onto the pitch as the crush developed. Yet still football clubs opened decrepit and unsafe grounds to fans week by week, local authorities allowed safety certificates to go unrenewed (Hillsborough’s was ten years out of date in1989), the FA awarded big fixtures to places which were little more than death traps and the police treated fans like animals, part of Thatcher‘s ‘enemy within’ rather than human beings to be respected.

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Chief Superintendent Duckenfield retired on a full police pension, never to be called to account for his criminally negligent handling of the match. Following Duckenfield’s retirement on medical grounds, Superintendent Bernard Murray avoided charges as it was thought unfair to call him to account if Duckenfield had avoided it.The collective exercise in arse covering by the South Yorkshire Police started not long after 3:15pm, as fans were still lay dying on the pitch, when Duckenfield told the FA’s Graham Kelly that Liverpool fans had forced the gates open to enter the ground – gates he had ordered to be opened himself just half an hour earlier. The smears, which went on to include questioning grieving relatives about their dead’s drinking habits and off the record briefings to the press about the alleged behaviour of Liverpool fans before and during the tragedy – rebutted by every independent witness to the events – began even as the bodies were still piled up on the terraces. By contrast, the Major Incident Plan was never put into action and hospital staff were left to come in as they heard about what had happened on the news rather than being called in immediately.

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The Taylor inquiry into the disaster named the primary cause of the tragedy as the failure of police control, yet even to this day people will still swear blind that the fans must have been responsible for their own deaths. Even in the face of practically all the available evidence of police lies, incompetence and the co-ordination of statements to tone down the chaos amongst those supposed to be keeping people safe and talk up the alleged out of control mob which seemingly only the South Yorkshire Police saw, the dead, injured and traumatised are slandered and libeled as hooligans who caused their own demise.

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One response to “Justice for the 96. Don’t buy the Sun. The Hillsborough Football Disaster: Context & Consequences

  1. Eamonn Ward

    I was on the terraces at Filbert St, Leicester that day and experienced a strange trepidation early in the first half despite having plenty of space to move in. I have experienced the police approach that was unable to change from oppressor to helper at Hillsborough. The “kettling” at the G20 is surely similar – a force sent out to suppress, probably given an exaggerated brief on the trouble makers out there. The help that Ian Tomlinson needed also came too late.

    I won’t pay £25 to walk up the road to see the team of my birth when they play at Hillsborough so don’t get to many matches now. But fairly recently I had my glasses broken at Hull in the Hartlepool away end. Police allowed home fans on a terrace above the away end to shower us with coins. Yes it is different 20 years on but the policing could still contribute to future loss of life.

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