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by Larry Neild

Civic buildings in Liverpool were bathed red Tuesday night as a 27-year fight for justice for victims of the Hillsborough disaster was finally won.

Liverpool has a large Asian fan base
Liverpool has a large Asian fan base
Hours earlier an inquest court jury cleared Liverpool fans of all blame for the worst tragedy in British football history, leaving 96 supporters dead and 766 injured.

Instead the jury concluded a two-year hearing, the longest in British legal history, by deciding the 96 had been unlawfully killed. Instead most of the blamed was heaped on the police in charge of crowd control when Liverpool faced Notts Forest in a cup semi final on April 15, 1989.

The tragedy was played out live on television as cameras sent to cover a football game were instead zooming in their lenses on an unbelievable tragedy.

Thousands of fans herded in pens were crushed by a crowd surge, unable to escape because a high-wire fence surrounded the playing area to prevent pitch invasions. Most were crushed to death.

Within hours blame was heaped on the fans, one report even claiming fans had urinated on the dead as their bodies lay on the ground, while others stole from victims who had died.

It was all lies, and finally today the truth was laid bare, the fans were victims not villains.

There was a celebratory mood in the city with Mayor Joe Anderson ordering buildings to be lit in red, the club color of Liverpool.

On Wednesday evening the mayor will lead a public event expected to attract thousands of people to the city’s main gathering point, St George’s Plateau. On the steps of the great hall overlooking the plateau 96 lanterns are already burning, one for each victim. On digital road signs on motorways leading to the city, the words “Never Forgotten” were displayed.

The tragedy brought the city together, with Liverpool fans supported in their fight for justice by their rivals from Everton FC, the blue corner of the city.

There was applause and tears in the courtroom in neighboring Warrington when the chairwoman announced the verdicts. Outside there were hugs as families sang the famous Anfield anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

For nearly 30 years, the families of the victims had walked together with their “Justice for the 96” campaign, facing ridicule and hurdles throughout their road to the truth. They came up against the British establishment, politicians, the police and others who preferred to blame the fans for their misfortune.

Eventually their campaigning led to an inquiry and a new inquest into the deaths. Just a few weeks ago the families decided the annual memorial event at Anfield should be the last.

One relative commented: “For 27 years we have fought for justice. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe we would get this.”

Within minutes of the verdict the Crown Prosecution Service announced it would investigate whether any charges should be brought against individuals or organizations based on the homicide verdict. It means for the families the fight for the truth has been won, but the fight to bring those responsible to justice will continue.

One of the first politicians to comment was Prime Minister David Cameron who said: “I would like to pay tribute to the extraordinary courage of Hillsborough campaigners in their long search for the truth.”

Liverpool-born former cabinet minister Andy Burnham, a supporter of Everton, helped lead the political fight for justice.

Burnham said: “This inquest has delivered justice. Next must come accountability. People must be held to account for their actions and prosecutions must now follow.”

Labour MP Steve Rotheram, whose Liverpool constituency covers Anfield, was at the game in 1989 at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground.

He said today: “I have waited 27 years for this moment. But I know it comes too late for many. I was there on the day and saw the horror unfold before my very eyes.”

“I’ve seen how friends have suffered. This is a momentous day but they should never have had to wait so long. The truth is out there for all to see. Justice has been served by the verdicts and now it is about accountability,” he added.

Flags in Liverpool are today being flown at half mast in tribute to those, aged 10 to their early 60s, who perished on that late spring afternoon. At Liverpool’s historic town hall today the clock was set at six minutes past three, the exact time the game at Hillsborough was abandoned when the scale of the unfolding disaster emerged.

The tragedy led to all-seater stadiums being introduced along with more stringent safety rules.

Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said after the verdict in a message directed at her son James, 18: “I want you to rest in peace now, without seeing your mum’s anger.” Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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