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Friday, January 12, 2007

Aurukun protest: inevitable until white police charged by Sam Watson


12 January 2006

“Aboriginal people across Queensland and across Australia have lost all
confidence in the capacity of the criminal justice system to address our
needs”, Sam Watson, Socialist Alliance spokesperson on Indigenous issues
said today.

Watson said: “Until those police officers who have been found to commit
criminal actions against Aboriginal people are dealt with by due process
more Aurukuns are inevitable.”

The Socialist Alliance spokesperson was commenting on the latest
explosion of Aboriginal rage, at the Cape York community of Aurukun. The
flare-up was caused by rumours that an Aboriginal man had been assaulted
while in police custody.

Watson stressed: “Any police officer involved in that unlawful assault
needs to be identified and suspended, and charges laid. We have this
extreme situation where a police officer actually fired a privately
owned rifle at the crowd of people who were confronting the police
station.”

The Aboriginal leader said that Aurukun Aboriginal elders were now
working with the community to stabilise matters and to ensure that there
are no dangers of any other flare-ups.

“On the other hand”, Watson added, “what is now starting to emerge is
the fact that there is substantial forensic material available that
supports the Aboriginal man’s claims that he was grievously assaulted
whilst in custody. There are senior Aboriginal people coming forward now
with material clearly supporting the man’s allegations.”

Watson demanded a thorough independent inquiry into the Aurukun protest
and the behaviour of the police. This was more necessary than ever after
the “shame of Palm Island”.
“There we have a brother (Mulrunji) who has been buried long since and
we still have the police officer who is responsible for that unlawful
killing walking around Surfers Paradise scot free”, Watson said. “And
yet Aboriginal people who rose up in justifiable anger have since been
charged, convicted and sent to jail for allegedly damaging public property!
“You can always replace bricks and mortar but we have a man who met his
death by an unlawful assault administered by a serving member of the
police force. And the deputy coroner found that senior sergeant Chis
Hurley bashed Mulrunji to death on the floor of the Palm Island watch
house.”

Watson stressed that “a culture of ongoing genocide that began with Day
One of the white invasion back in 1788” continues to this day in the
police. To many police officers the blue uniform is just a licence to
bash, terrorise and, if need be, kill Aboriginal people.”

Watson commented that the challenge was to break the influence of the
Queensland Police Union, which continues to determine the agenda on
Aboriginal deaths in custody. As we know from the Fitzgerald Inquiry and
numerous other inquiries and investigations there are a number of issues
to do with the way the QPU conducts its business. The people of
Queensland should be very concerned about what is happening now.”

But Watson also stressed that police immunity is not just a Queensland
issue. “February 14 is the third anniversary of the death of T.J. Hickey
in Redfern. As we saw from the investigations into TJ’s death key police
officers at the scene were not required to give evidence. The coronial
inquest was corrupted and did not deliver any real or positive results
for the Hickey family or the community.

“That coronial inquest must be re-opened. All police officers with
knowledge of the events that day must be called before the court and
they must answer for what they did.”

Watson concluded with the undertaking that Aboriginal people and their
non-Indigenous supporters would continue their protest action until
justice for Aboriginal people is won.
“We stand squarely behind the line that has been drawn in the sand with
the blood of Mulrunji. We are going to stand behind that line and defend
it.
“We will continue to fight for justice because unless we can force the
Queensland government and judicial system to place a very real value on
the life of our brother then the life of an Aboriginal person on
Australian soil hasn’t any value at all.”

*FOR MORE INFORMATION: 0401 227 443 (Sam Watson) 0410 629 088 (Paul
Benedek)*

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