The noise may have passed, for now, but the dust may never settle on Hillsborough. However, the findings of the two-year inquest determining that the 96 victims were unlawfully killed, is a result that provides a real opportunity for accountability to be demanded… and it should be demanded by all of us.
Hillsborough has never been just about football or the city of Liverpool. Hillsborough is about class. It’s about people being allowed to die because in split-second decisions they were deemed dispensable by those who consider themselves better than the people they are elected and chosen to serve. The things that affected those split-second decisions are ingrained in the people who made those grave choices on April 15th 1989 – and they are vital in understanding why people like David Duckenfield chose the path he did and in also understanding why Hillsborough was class war fought inside a football ground.
Now, it’s going to become class war in the courtroom, as the families of victims are to launch a high court claim against two police forces for “abuse on an industrial scale”.
“In addition to the police wrongdoing that caused the deaths, there is evidence of the systematic cover-up intended to transfer the blame for what happened, from South Yorkshire Police to the innocent, by spreading lies, doctoring evidence, pressurising witnesses and suppressing the truth,” said James Saunders, representing the families. “The evidence points to abuse on an industrial scale by both South Yorkshire and West Midlands police, beyond any ‘one bad apple’ analysis. In addition to actions by individuals, the evidence suggests institutional misfeasance by these bodies directed against our clients and the fans generally.”
South Yorkshire Police has already spent £19m defending the indefensible… nineteen million pounds. We have to be ready, then, to continue to offer solidarity and support to the families and survivors in the weeks and months to come. Because it’s going to get tougher – the establishment always regroup. David Cameron’s carefully worded one liner, released just moments after the biggest inquest of its kind had delivered its findings, was anything but unequivocal in its regret: “Landmark day as the #Hillsborough inquest provides long overdue justice for the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the tragic disaster,” he tweeted. The words ‘tragic’ and ‘disaster’ seem to still suggest that the 96 deaths were accidental or natural – and that’s factualy incorrect at best and horrifically misleading at worst.
It’s not the first time him or his party have been misleading in this 27 year battle for truth. This is the man, remember, who initially dismissed calls for another inquest with these words: “The families of the Hillsborough tragedy are a blind man, in a dark room, looking for a black cat that isn’t there.” Well, the black cat was there, Prime Minister. The families could see all along. And the findings of the inquest have switched the big light on in that dark room for the whole world to look into… and what it sees are lies, crimes and deceit. It sees police forces and politicians as perpetrators of the worst kind of untruths and falsehoods that people can peddle.
The world sees the truth in that dark room and history now records it. But, accountability is the place where truth lives forever – and that will only come with the proceedings that have now been launched against the South Yorkshire and West Midlands forces. However, what about the FA? The Sun and News Corp UK & Ireland Limited (formerly News International)? Sheffield Wednesday, Liverpool and Nottingham Forest Football Clubs should also be asking themselves some hard questions. After all, the semi final was the FA’s event, staged at Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium, between Liverpool and Forest, who both stood to profit from the occasion, on or off the pitch.
Why weren’t all involved interested in, and involved with, the fact that Hillsborough’s safety certificate hadn’t been updated since 1979? John Stoddart, the lead officer on Operation Resolve, has now confirmed that the FA and Sheffield Wednesday were part of his investigation and he is preparing to send files to the Crown Prosecution Service. It’s a concern that has also been highlighted by Hillsborough Independent Panel chair, Professor Phil Scraton: “There is no question that the one significant omission is the FA,” he has said. “The FA hired the stadium. They considered it an appropriate place to stage an event of that magnitude. It was for them to check the safety. That did not occur.”
What did occur was an act of class war that cost 96 people their lives and caused thousands more a lifetime of anguish. As families, survivors and supporters gathered outside of St George’s Hall to mark the occasion of the facts determined by the inquest – facts such as 96 people being unlawfully killed and Liverpool fans being blameless – something else occurred, too: twenty seven years of pain were joined by a vindication that came with the exoneration of that blame… the pain might never go away, but the lies and myths that have surrounded Hillsborough for years have been swept away forever. Sure, we’ll still hear the falsifications put forth by some, and the establishment will regroup and fight back, but the truth is out there now the dragon of deceit has been slayed on the steps of St George’s Hall, with the eyes of the world bearing witness.
“Someone once said ‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’,” Sheila Coleman, of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, told the assembled thousands from those steps. “Well… you did something.” You did. And you’re going to have to do something else over the coming weeks and months of this high court claim: keep doing something. Because the dust won’t settle until we live in a country where there is no power without accountability.
Pic by John Johnson