Full support for Australian Black Lives Matter/Deaths in Custody protests
Written by: Nick G. on 3 June 2020
“I’m here for my people, and for our fallen brothers and sisters around the world…. What’s happening in America shines a light on the situation here."
These comments came from a 46-year old Indigenous woman attending a Black Lives Matter rally and march in Sydney. With her daughter and two nieces, she was amongst a 3-4000 strong crowd showing solidarity with US anti-racism protesters, and taking a stand against police brutality and deaths in custody in Australia.
The ugly epidemic of police beatings and neglect of the physical and mental health of Australian First Peoples held in police cells and prisons led, some three decades ago, to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
However, a 2015 report by law firm Clayton Utz found that the bulk of the commission’s 339 recommendations remained unimplemented or only partially implemented by State and Territory governments.
So much hope was born of the Commission, yet so little changed. First Peoples are entitled to feel cheated of a major opportunity to begin to feel safe and secure in their own country. Since the handing down of the Commission’s recommendations in 1991, there have been a further 430 Aboriginal deaths in custody.
Issues surrounding these deaths are still raw.
The case of Ms Dhu, who died after inhumane treatment suffered while in police custody in South Hedland, WA in 2014 still incites anger, as does the case of David Dungay Jnr, a 26 year old Dungatti man, who died on December 29, 2015 in Sydney's Long Bay Prison Hospital. Six guards held him down in a prone position, administering a sedative while nursing staff and four other guards looked on. He called out twelve times that he couldn't breathe before losing consciousness.
Very rarely has action been taken against police and prison guards. However, last year the police shooting of Kumanjayi Walker at Yuendumu in the NT, and of Yamatji woman Joyce Clark of Geraldton WA who died in custody after being shot by police, led to murder charges being levelled at the two officers concerned. The extraordinary outpouring of protest within 24 hours of the death of Kumanjayi Walker cannot be overlooked in the decision to quickly charge the officer involved.
However, racist attitudes still surface daily when police deal with First Peoples. Last year, a South Australian policewoman was driven to resign from the force after she began dating an Aboriginal man. She had been assigned to Operation Mandrake, a part of the force dealing specifically with young Aboriginal offenders. Other members of the task force repeatedly referred to Aborigines as “Davids”, a contraction of the cricketer David Boon’s name which had become rhyming slang for the racist term “coons”. She said she had fellow cops “come up to me in the workplace and say, ‘oh does your mate even work, or does he just steal cars for a living?’”
The social media footage of a 17-year old Indigenous youth being arrested by police in Surry Hills, Sydney, on June 1, further illustrates the daily brutality meted out to First Peoples by police. Footage showed the officer approach the youth, turning him around and holding his hands behind his back. The youth does not resist, but the cop suddenly kicks the boy’s feet out from under him and slamming him into the ground. The boy’s head took the brunt of being slammed into the hard ground. The cop places his knee into the boy’s back while a female cop kneels on his lower legs. Take a moment to mentally rewind the footage, and then imagine the cop in a brown Nazi stormtrooper’s uniform and the 17-year old with a yellow Star of David sewn on the front of his clothing. That is a fitting parallel to the unrestrained and arrogant brutality of the episode. It is also a reminder of the 1938 protest by the Aborigines Advancement League against the Nazi persecution of Jews, one of the first expressions of Australian opposition to racist Nazi thuggery.
The Sydney Black Lives Matter rally was first proposed by First Peoples’ leaders in Sydney, but the police refused them the right and they cancelled it.
Members of the newly-formed Australian Communist Party (ACP) decided not to let police dictate the right to protest and went ahead with the rally’s organization. A spokesperson of the CPA (M-L) contacted the ACP and congratulated them on their initiative.
A Black Lives Matter/Deaths in Custody rally of several hundred people also took place in Perth.
The Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) will continue to support the just struggles of Australian First Peoples.
Print Version - new window Email article