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‘The officer could have smashed her skull’: the 1984 miners’ strike in pictures

Four decades after the brutal industrial dispute, a new exhibition looks back at the photography that came to symbolise the British state’s abuse of power

On 18 June 1984, miners from all over the country arrived in South Yorkshire to picket at the Orgreave coking works. The day began peacefully. The weather was good, and miners were sitting in the sun or playing football.

Suddenly, police in full riot gear began charging out in small groups. The violence escalated quickly. “Short shield units and mounted officers were everywhere, wielding their batons,” says the photographer John Harris. He remembers climbing up a wall to get a better view and being knocked backwards by a mounted officer. Gathering his equipment, Harris scrambled back into the fray, and as he was shooting, spotted Lesley Boulton, a member of Women Against Pit Closures, helping an injured picket. She was shouting for an ambulance when a policeman turned round on his horse and charged, swinging a truncheon at her head.

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