LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 27, 2016: Thousands of people gather outside Liverpool's St George's Hall in remembrance of the 96 victims who died at the Hillsborough disaster, a day after after a two-year long inquest court delivered a verdict of unlawful killing. (Pic by Propaganda)

Hillsborough: How the fans fought for justice

The Hillsborough disaster impacted Liverpool as a city in an indescribable way, with families fighting for justice ever since.

Hillsborough – April 15, 1989

96 supporters die in a crush during Liverpool’s FA Cup clash with Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium.

With supporters spilling onto the pitch due to severe overcrowding, referee Ray Lewis is instructed to call off the match at 3.06pm.

Fans from the upper tier pull those below them to safety, but with many penned into the stadium, 96 fatalities are caused.

Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield tells FA chief executive Graham Kelly that a gate had been ‘forced open’, causing the crush—this was later reported to be untrue, with surveillance footage disappearing soon after the incident.

Fans from all stands stream onto the pitch to aid medical staff, tearing down advertising hoardings to use as makeshift stretchers.

Ninety-six die, with only 14 even making it to a hospital.


Sea of scarves at Anfield – April, 1989

The Shankly Gates are adorned with scarves, flowers and memorials, as Merseyside pays tribute to those who lost their lives.

April 17, 1989, floral tributes are placed by soccer fans at the 'Kop' end of Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England, on April 17, 1989, after the Hillsborough April 15 tragedy when fans surged forward during the Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium killing 96 people. (Picture by: Peter Kemp / AP/Press Association Images)

Due to the volume of people heading to Anfield after the disaster, club secretary Peter Robinson calls for supporters to be given access to the stadium.

The terraces are filled with devastated well-wishers, who later take to Liverpool’s Roman Catholic cathedral for a memorial service.

The following day, the S*n publishes a front-page story claiming ‘The Truth’, with editor Kelvin MacKenzie calling for the defamation of Liverpool supporters.

The city of Liverpool boycotts the newspaper, a movement which stands to this day and resonates through supporters around the country.

A mile of scarves link Anfield and Everton’s Goodison Park on April 22, with the city joining to pay their respects. Everton hold a minute’s silence during their next outing, while Liverpool take on Celtic in Glasgow on April 30, 1989.


Liverpool vs. Everton, FA Cup Final – May 20, 1989

The two Merseyside clubs meet at Wembley Stadium.

Five weeks after the disaster, Liverpool take on Everton at Wembley, with supporters roaming freely together throughout the London stadium as a sign of unity that has endured over the years.

A goal from John Aldridge and two from Ian Rush secure the victory for Kenny Dalglish’s Reds, but the clash is remembered for its tributes to the 96, with Gerry & the Pacemakers leading a rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ before kickoff.

Dalglish said after the game: “This has meant more than any other trophy I’ve been involved in—it was an emotional experience.”


The Kop’s last stand – April 30, 1994

A report, led by Lord Taylor of Gosforth, recognises the causes of the tragedy, and calls for changes to stadia, including the sale of alcohol, and the placing of barriers, fences and turnstiles.

The Kop last stand, Anfield: LIverpool vs Norwich, 1994 (PA Images)

The Taylor Report, released in 1990, establishes that a failure of police control was the key factor behind the Hillsborough disaster, prompting an overhaul in the approach to stadia in England and Scotland at the behest of the government.

This leads to the the demolition of Anfield’s Spion Kop stand, with all-seating accommodation taking its place.

The Spion Kop’s last outing came at the end of the 1993/94 season, as Liverpool took on Norwich City.

‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ echoed around Anfield that day, and though many have bemoaned the loss of terraces in modern football, it served as a necessary show of solidarity in a post-Hillsborough landscape.


‘Truth Day’, Liverpool vs. Arsenal – January 6, 2007

Supporters voice their anguish over a long and frustrating inquiry with calls for justice.

Liverpool, England - Saturday, January 6, 2007: Liverpool fans on the famous Spion Kop hold up a mosaic reading 'The Truth' for six minutes to remember the 96 supporters who dies at the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 before the FA Cup 3rd Round match against Arsenal at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Welcoming Arsenal to Anfield in the FA Cup’s third round, the Liverpool supporters took advantage of the occasion to call for justice.

With the S*n offering a veiled apology in 2004, and BBC employee MacKenzie reinforcing his claims that ‘there was a surge of Liverpool fans who had been drinking and that is what caused the disaster’ two years later, Anfield demanded the truth.

A mosaic adorned the Kop asking for just that, while chants of ‘Justice for the 96’ rang out around the stadium for the first six minutes of the clash, as the BBC cameras rolled.

Rafa Benitez’s side lost 3-1, but there was a more significant cause than Liverpool’s quest for silverware that day at Anfield.


Andy Burnham’s speech interrupted – April 15, 2009

Burnham’s speech during the 20th anniversary Hillsborough memorial service is halted with chants.

With Burnham delivering an impassioned speech at Anfield as part of the 20th anniversary service, references to the 96 were followed by calls from the stands for justice.

‘Justice for the 96’ once again permeates Anfield for a full minute, as Burnham watches on in agreement.

“It spoke to the country, and the world, of something precious,” Burnham said of Merseyside’s response to the tragedy.

“A sense of community, and a spirit of solidarity that could never be broken—no matter how great the adversity.”


March4Justice – June 20, 2009

Thousands of supporters and families of the 96 march on Downing Street to deliver a petition calling for a fresh criminal investigation.

With justice yet to be delivered, mothers of those who lost their lives at Hillsborough lead a march of a reported 4,000 on Downing Street to deliver a petition of around 40,000 signatures, calling for the reopening of a criminal investigation into the disaster.

An independent panel is formed in 2010, while the disaster is debated in the Houses of Commons in 2011, with 15-year-old victim Kevin Williams’ case debated at Westminster Hall in 2012 following a vociferous petition led by his mother: the Iron Lady, Anne Williams.


The Truth – September 12, 2012

The Hillsborough independent panel releases their findings, with the truth finally acknowledged.

– Supporters did not cause or contribute to the deaths of the 96.

– 41 lives could have been saved with a swifter response.

– Margaret Thatcher focussed her concern instead on a ‘devastating criticism of the police’.

– Two of the South Yorkshire Police’s leading names blamed ‘drunken, ticketless individuals’.

– Prime Minister David Cameron offers a “profound apology.”

Williams is among those to laud the findings of the panel, saying “he’s at peace, and I’m at peace. I can’t wait until I can put my little boy to peace, because I want a life.”

Masses of supporters attend St George’s Hall that evening to hold a vigil commemorating a truly significant day in the history of Merseyside.


Goodison Park pays tribute – September 17, 2012

Everton Football Club honour the memories of the 96 in the aftermath of the panel’s findings.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, September 17, 2012: Mascots Beth Garner-Watt, 11, and Mikey Clarke, 8, stand for a minute's applause to remember the 96 victims of the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster before the Premiership match between Everton and Newcastle United at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With Everton taking on Newcastle United at Goodison Park days after the truth was released, the club paid tribute to the 96.

Two mascots—one in an Everton shirt, one in a Liverpool shirt—joined at the centre circle before kickoff, with their shirt numbers marking the 96.

The Hollies’ ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ played at Goodison Park, with Everton manager David Moyes writing in his pre-match notes that “I am a football supporter and a father and I applaud the families who continued to fight for the ones they loved.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 23, 2012: Liverpool supporters form a mosaic on the Centenary Stand calling for Justice for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster before the Premiership match against Manchester United at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Days later, Liverpool and Manchester United join to pay tribute before their match at Anfield, with Steven Gerrard and Ryan Giggs releasing 96 balloons.


Anfield remembers Anne Williams – April 21, 2013

Williams’ death is marked by a minute’s silence at Anfield.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 21, 2013: Liverpool supporter's banner of Justice campaigner Ann Williams on the Spion Kop during the Premiership match against Southampton at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With Liverpool taking on Chelsea at Anfield, a minute’s silence was held before kickoff to commemorate Williams, a leading figure in the fight for justice.

“Thank you Anne, you’ll never walk alone,” read one of the banners in the Kop. Williams had died eight days earlier, following a battle with cancer.

When Anfield held the first memorial service since the independent panel’s findings were released, Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group and mother of James Aspinall, one of the 96, addressed supporters:

“I’d like to thank Liverpool Football Club for all they’ve done to help the families over the past 24 years.

“After nearly a quarter of a century, the real truth is out.

“A truth that is now printed in black and white. A truth that finally puts the record straight.

“The Hillsborough Report has swept away the established myths, lies and prejudices that have been thrown our way.

“The fans were not to blame.”


England honours the 96 – April, 2014

The Premier League and the Football League join to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

Twenty-five years on from the Hillsborough disaster, all Premier League, Football League and FA Cup fixtures are scheduled seven minutes later to commemorate the time that the match was stopped back in 1989.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, April 15, 2014: A 96 written in scarves before the 25th Anniversary Hillsborough Service at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Anfield holds the 25th anniversary Hillsborough memorial, with Everton manager Roberto Martinez delivering a passionate speech, asking “How can anyone die watching the game you love?”

“That isn’t right, that isn’t fair,” he added. “For 25 years you have gained the respect of those within and beyond football and the city.”

Survivors, families and supporters join three days later to walk 96 miles from Sheffield to Liverpool.


The ‘final’ Hillsborough memorial at Anfield – April 15, 2016

Families and supporters mark the last memorial service to take place at Anfield.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, April 15, 2016: Liverpool players during the 27th Anniversary Hillsborough Service at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As a verdict edges closer, the Hillsborough Family Support Group, led by Aspinall, announce that the 27th anniversary Hillsborough memorial will be the last to be held at Anfield.

On their decision, Aspinall said: “The HFSG would like to thank everyone for all the support the families have received over the past 27 years and all those people who have attended the service at Anfield each year.”

Another memorial was then set to be held at Anfield on April 15, 2020, but was forced to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.


The inquest verdict and justice, April 26, 2016

An inquest rules had the 96 were unlawfully killed, bringing justice to the families.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 27, 2016: L-R Angela Eagle MP, Andy Burnam MP, Former Liverpool Manager Kenny Dalglish and Steve Rotherham MP sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" with the family and friends of the 96 victims as thousands of people gather outside Liverpool's St George's Hall in remembrance of the 96 victims who died at the Hillsborough disaster, a day after after a two-year long inquest court delivered a verdict of unlawful killing. (Pic by Propaganda)

A jury determined that supporters were not at fault for the Hillsborough disaster, with the “gross negligence” of police and ambulance services contributing to the deaths of the 96.

“It wasn’t just about the 96 today, this was about all the families, the fans, the survivors—this was getting the clean sweep and clearing their name as well,” Aspinall told reporters.

“All I can say now, I want the 96 to rest in peace, because they’ve suffered for these 27 years.

“Our city always gets brought down but yet again the people of Liverpool fight a cause that was so unjust, so unfair, and we’ve done it, and we’ve won it.

“To me, I’m proud of every one of them.”

Sir Kenny Dalglish said “the fans have been totally vindicated, and the families have been victorious in everything they put forwards,” while the decision was labelled “the biggest victory in the history of the club.”

The families of those who lost their lives at Hillsborough sang ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, and thousands gathered at St George’s Hall the following day in remembrance.

Banners reading ‘TRUTH’ and ‘JUSTICE’ were unfurled.