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1st annual march "Justice my arse!"
4th July 2009: "I am a picket, not a criminal” was the chant of the hundreds of trade unionists who had come from all over Britain to march organised by Shropshire and Telford Trades Union Council and the Shrewsbury 24 Justice Campaign through Shrewsbury to seek justice for the Shrewsbury 24. The building workers were arrested on conspiracy charges after picketing sites in Telford on 6th September 1972.
“We were building workers from north Wales, we did not know the area”, said Terry Renshaw, one of the original 24, at the rally which took place outside the courts where the show trials had taken place. “The West Mercia Constabulary took us to the sites and at the end of the day, Detective Superintendant Meredith got on our coaches and thanked the pickets for the way we had conducted ourselves. Then the conspiracy started – the conspiracy between the government of the day, the employers, the police, the judiciary and believe it, the secret services. We have evidence of MI5 involvement, heavily edited. To his discredit, Jack Straw will not release that missing information. He says that section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act says they don’t have to release information which is a threat to the national security of the country. So we have building workers who were a threat apparently 36 years ago to national security. Now 36 years after the trials, they are still a threat to national security.
I am proud to stand here and defend what I did that day I believe any trade unionist would do the same again. I have nothing to be ashamed of, Ricky has nothing to be ashamed of and none of the 24 have anything to be ashamed of.”
The Shrewsbury 24 Justice Campaign announced that this would be an annual demonstration until justice is won. They called on trade unionists to lobby their MPs for the withheld information to be released and acts committed by the judiciary to be looked at and revoked.
Family members of Des Warren, who died from drug-induced Parkinson’s disease as a direct result of his mistreatment in prison, were present.
The other jailed picket, Ricky Tomlinson, addressed the crowd.
"Why was the trial held in Shrewsbury and not in Wolverhampton? They thought we were a soft touch. I was asked to be a prosecution witness, because I haven’t always been a left winger but I said hang on I was elected by the lads to be their mouthpiece. I used to go to the meetings at the Bull and Stirrup and 9 times out of 10 I was probably voting the minority of one, but when a decision was made we stuck to it. When he realised I wasn’t going to be a prosecution witness he said right I’m going to charge you and he did. I said fine, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Arthur Scargill, said “it’s not good enough for the TUC leaders to go down to Tolpuddle once a year and sing the praises of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. For their information, the Tolpuddle martyrs broke the law and if they didn’t we wouldn’t be here today.”
Rob Williams the re-instated Linamar Factory Convenor, said “we are here to celebrate the significant victories of the last couple of months but we look to the future as well. We stand on the shoulders of these comrades that came before us. It is possible for workers to stand up, to fight and to win.”
Tony Conway PCS Union also spoke and Alan Parry & Banner Theatre performed at the Unison Club afterwards. Banner had campaigned in 1973 for the release of Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson.