Image © Copyright Amy Charles Media 2014

30 Jan 2015

From Peterloo to Orgreave (165 Years)

Sixty thousand hungry souls
flocked towards St Peter's Square;
and apparently some sunshine
came creeping through Mancunian air.
The powerless and impoverished
were somehow optimistic;
when less than 3% had the vote:
how's that for a statistic?

These were peaceful, forward thinking people,
out of sight and out of mind;
living in the city slums where
poverty was redefined.
And all the while they're wanting change;
and hopeful of progression.
But as usual the state replied
with unprovoked aggression.

Sixty thousand hungry souls
came to speak in silence.
Came to speak without a voice:
came not seeking violence.
Sixty thousand hungry souls
pursued the greater good.
They tried provoking dialogue
but went home soaked in blood.

"Universal Suffrage"
was the overarching motion.
With the red cap of liberty
hanging on the poles;
what a tantalising notion!
"Equal Representation",
"Reform", and finally,
were the messages on the banners
that the people hung above.

Henry Hunt addressed the crowds,
alarmed at what he saw.
Alarmed that sixty thousand folk,
maybe even more,
had made their way to Manchester
with their dignity on a thread:
they were pushing for progression,
with barely a loaf of bread.

They had no valid ownership
of hope or opportunity:
the Corn Laws ripped their heart and soul
and crippled their community,
and yet there they were,
with a distant dream of equal representation.
On the dogged road to democracy
defeating degradation.

And despite the fact they were peaceful,
as they gathered there en masse,
the very fact that they'd had the cheek
to challenge the ruling class,
soon provoked the cavalry
to charge their lowly neighbours:
and storm the crowds on horseback
armed with muskets, whips
and sabres.

And the official word?
Well, they were rioting.
This was merely
a restoration
of order.

Some folk died from sabre wounds,
some were shot,
and others were trampled to death.
Women, children and infants
were among the innocent victims.
Leading Radicals were arrested at the scene,
as were any journalists
attempting to report the events.
And by 3pm,
St Peter's Square
was left in an eerie silence.

And it's totalitarian tricks of the mind
when the public are attacked,
but they're suddenly to find
that THEY are the ones being blamed for the blood:
theirs are the names being dragged through the mud.

When basic rights are the rag to the bull,
the policeman's truncheon cracks on the skull;
and you run, and you plead,
and you beg, and you bleed,
and never mind a doctor,
it's a lawyer that you need.

And you marvel at the progression
of 165 years.
When the victims of oppression
are victimised and smeared.
Official statements forged or lost,
or rife with contradiction.
Or as it seems on many parts
a total work of fiction.

Scargill's men weren't soldiers
or "the enemy within."
And 30 years later we'll support
through thick and thin.

When protective wings of Government
treat working folk as feral:
at Peterloo, and Orgreave.
Forget them at your peril.

Written for the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign compilation CD, which is available via Philosophy Football here.