The killing of Angelo Tsakos
SYDNEY — On November 11, a book was launched in the outer Sydney suburb of Blacktown. It coincided with the 17th anniversary of the killing by police of 16-year-old Angelo Tsakos.
The book, A Mother's Story, details the agony of those 17 years for Angelo's mother, Demetra Tsakos, as she has fought for justice. The book was written by Demetra Tsakos and Derek Mortimer.
A Mother's Story is a poignant and angry account of the events that led to the shooting, of police persecution of working-class kids, the charade of a trial and a judicial cover up. It is also a tale of the growing political consciousness of a working-class migrant woman.
The emotional launch attracted almost 100 people, many of them friends of the family and Angelo's mates. Such a strong turnout is an indication of the support the family has and the lasting anger over Angelo's killing.
Co-author Mortimer paid tribute to Demetra Tsakos' two sons and a daughter, who, although barely more than children at the time, had to cope with terrible grief and helped maintain the family as their mother struggled with desperate long-term depression.
In the book, Demetra Tsakos' writes of her initial belief that the justice system was fair to everyone, regardless of class or ethnicity. She was confident that the perpetrators of the killing would be brought to justice. However, Mortimer told the launch, she discovered this wasn't the case, "particularly if you are working class, black or migrant".
At the manslaughter trial of constable Michael Harris, the police officer who killed Angelo, the judge took the extraordinary step of instructing the jury to ignore the evidence of the only independent witness, a truck driver named Greg Dowse. Dowse repeatedly contradicted the evidence of constable Harris, who had claimed he was in danger of being run over by Angelo. Dowse said Harris was never behind the car. Initially, Harris said he shot in self-defence. Later, he said the gun "just went off".
Mortimer explained that Demetra Tsakos had taken inspiration from the campaign against black deaths in custody that was being waged at the time. She met Arthur Murray, whose son Eddie was found hanged in a police cell in Wee Waa, NSW. The police said it was suicide, the family said the police were responsible.
"This helped Demetra realise that the terrible things happening to her were also happening to others", Mortimer said.
Mortimer added that it was not drawing a long bow to make a connection between the killing of Angelo Tsakos, the harassment of the young people in Blacktown and the recent government raids on Indonesian migrants, using the fear of "terrorism" as a pretext. It is all part of government attacks on some sections of the community and it is going to get worse, Mortimer predicted.
A Mother's Story, by Derek Mortimer and Demetra Tsakos can be ordered at (02) 9920 9521.
From Green Left Weekly, November 27, 2002.
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