Many Have Eyes But Do Not See!
Peter Hooton from the Farm tells us about being at the vedict and the emotional decision when the establishment finally owed up.
Now we have the truth…lets have justice
It has been a monumental week for all the families and survivors of the Hillsborough tragedy. However there were no celebrations in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral on Wednesday 12th Sept 2012. just a dignified \’now we have the truth let’s get justice!’ In fact it’s the way the families and survivors have always conducted themselves throughout this long ordeal. There were hugs and tears in abundance in the Sir Giles Gilbert Scott suite as the panel delivered their findings to the families of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and survivors of that fateful day. As I had entered the Cathedral and walked its neo-gothic, chilly, overpowering corridors there was a palpable sense of history in the making but it also felt quite surreal like an out of body experience ââin reality just like 15th April 1989 ! As I entered the room of about 30 survivor’s guests of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign there was total silence. It had the feeling of a court room with three large empty chairs were the judges would deliver their verdict on the accused gathered before him! I heard the faint noise of a cheer from the main hall, could it really be that the panel had uncovered the truth. My heart beat faster as if it was going to burst out of my ribcage. The adrenaline rushed. These were the feelings and nerves I usually only experience just before going on stage!
Even though I knew we were innocent I certainly had the feeling that we were the accused as we had been smeared, vilified and castigated for over 23 years. What I witnessed on that terrible day when the fans initiated and orchestrated the rescue operation will live in my memory forever! Liverpool fans truly were \’magnificent’ (Justice Taylor Report) As I walked back to the car a couple of hours after the disaster in a state of shock I expected the radio to report acts of heroism, of desperate attempts by fans to revive fellow fans, of fans spontaneously tearing up advertising hoardings and turning them into makeshift stretchers as a \’police line’ stood idly on the half way line! This cordon was deployed for well over an hour to \’stop the fighting’ to \’stop the riot!’ Instead I heard the first signs of a cover up. The wheels were in motion to shift the blame in what would turn out to be the biggest cover up in British legal history! Even though the Taylor Inquiry had blamed the disaster on the \’failure of police control’ in 1989 the Government hadn’t really liked its conclusions so it was buried under the myths and lies of the police counter propaganda undoubtedly backed by Margaret Thatcher!
When three members of the Hillsborough Independent panel entered the room it was as if the judges had come in to pronounce the verdict. We were the \’condemned’ tainted for 23 years by the \’gutter’ press and some ignorant football fans that wouldn’t listen to the facts but got their mindset from what we knew to be lies and more lies. Everyone else appeared nervous sipping glasses of water as the three panel members sat down in what could’ve been a medieval courtroom. The Bishop of Liverpool RT Rev James Jones stood up and apologised for being late ââ it wasn’t his fault it was successive Government that were 23 years too late! The panel had spent 3 years pouring over 450,000 documents many previously unseen but the fact that there were no leaks and no indication of the findings made everyone in that room edgy. The Bishop said they had looked at everything they possibly could that was written down or recorded but they would never really be able to ascertain what was whispered in the corridors of power by politicians and officials in grey suits and in my mind a clear reference to Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s chief press secretary and the Prime Minister herself. Ingham famously blamed the disaster on a visit to the ground with the Prime Minister the day after \’on a tanked up mob of Liverpool fans’ as he had been told this lie by a senior South Yorkshire police officer!
The Bishop introduced Phil Sraton who had been a vigorous campaigner! He had previously written a book called \’Hillsborough The Truth’ published 10 years after the disaster! On Wednesday with his voice cracking and a visible tear in his eye he catalogued the numerous warning signs in the 1970’s and 80’s which if acted upon could’ve prevented the disaster. He catalogued a whole series of \’near misses’ which might have caused an earlier disaster and the inertia caused by the lack of co-operation between Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, Sheffield City Council and the South Yorkshire police. They simply couldn’t agree on anything and although the terracing was deemed unsafe and failed to meet minimum requirements under the 1975 Safety of Sports Grounds Act (known as the Green Guide) nothing was done and the stadium would be destined to become a \’theatre of death.’ The Fire Service did raise concerns about emergency exits onto the pitch and the 1 in 6 slope in the tunnel leading to the pens both of which breach the recommendations in the Green Guide but nothing was done! The football clubs primary objective was to \’limit costs’ and the police were more interested in crowd control than crowd safety. This of course was the prevailing mindset in Thatcher’s Britain. Football fans remember were the \’enemy within’ and had to be contained in cages! Never forget Thatcher’s \’storm troopers’ of the South Yorkshire Police knew how to deal with large groups of people as they had vigorously and enthusiastically demonstrated during the miner’s strike of 1984/5!
\’If Adolf Hitler flew into today they’d send a limousine anyway’ (Joe Strummer)
After what seemed like an age and after a panel member Dr Bill Kirkup had described the post mortems of the victims revealed that over 40 of the men women and children who perished may have been saved with the very basic medical equipment Prof Scraton delivered the verdict! He pointed at the survivors in the room and said \’you the fans were not to blame, you the fans were not in any way culpable for the deaths of the 96 it was purely down to the authorities that those deaths occurred!’ Many broke down openly weeping and people shook hands and hugged ââ the innocent had been acquitted, the victims exonerated of blame, it was a truly historical moment. Within an hour we had been subject to a roller coaster of emotions! It is hard to put into words the feeling in the room words are not enough. But we felt free FREE AT LAST a cloud had been lifted! Our guilt and self doubt were once and for all cast aside, a heavy weight gone but there were no celebrations there were no victors in this tragedy, just victims and survivors!
Even though many of us knew the truth, because of the slurs and the black propaganda there were moments when you start to doubt ââ that is what the South Yorkshire Police \’machine’ did to us. Yes us and the 96 victims and the thousands of others traumatised by what they witnessed. Incredibly they made us feel in some way responsible for THEIR failings, for THEIR lack of organisation, for THEIR criminal negligence, for THEIR mindset. They had put us and the families through a living hell for 23 years as they sipped wine and played golf on full pensions. They had never once expressed an iota of remorse or stood up and issued an apology, as that would implicate them, that would’ve been human and they lacked any semblance of humanity. No they were in the self preservation society. POWER CORRUPTION AND LIES! The senior officers and the police federation were all culpable and they used there \’minions’ in the press to do their dirty work for them with a nod, a wink and a handshake after undoubtedly consulting with media barons in league with politicians in the higher echelons of Government. It takes a certain type of bastard to do that to a whole city, to the grieving families, to a whole fan base that had witnessed the horrors as they \’froze’ in the control room! Senior officers almost immediately started thinking up excuses for Duckenfield the Superintendent in command on the day and his \’blunder of the first magnitude’ to open the gate C which led to the crush and the deaths.
After composing ourselves we joined the main family group in the main hall to hear the Prime Ministers Parliamentary address, we were stunned by its tone. There was no beating about the bush. Here was an establishment figure in the form of David Cameron absolutely going for the jugular. There was no black and white, this was a cover up and corruption on an industrial scale. There would be no prevarication, no ambiguity this was a total miscarriage of justice ââ the authorities had caused the disaster and then tried to blame the fans then cover up the truth. Like an airline blaming the passengers for an air disaster caused by their negligence on safety issues compounded by pilot error! But there were still no celebrations just a sense of deep sadness that it had taken 23 years to get to this point ââ how could they do it, how could a group of people however conditioned however calculated be so inhumane. It was a combination of indifference before the event and institutionalised corruption after. Statements were altered and deleted, sometimes without the consent of the rank and file to protect the reputation of the guilty. As Cameron delivered his public execution a lyric from the Justice Tonight tour came into my head!
\’You start wearing the blue and brown and
You’re working for the clampdown
So you got someone to boss around
It makes you feel big now
You drift until you brutalize
You made your first kill now’
But we still didn’t celebrate ââjust like 15th April 1989 it felt surreal was this really happening were we really vindicated and the people who perverted the course of justice exposed or was this just a dream a nightmare which I would wake up from in a cold sweat, reliving the horror of that beautiful spring day in Sheffield! Maybe at last after a long hard struggle there was light at the end of the tunnel and the people responsible for this cover up were to be brought to justice and be brought to account for the deaths of 96 innocent victims who were herded into cages like lambs to the slaughter!