On February 14, hundreds of Aboriginal people, many young ones, and non-Aboriginal people gathered at the fence where 17-year-old TJ Hickey was fatally wounded in Waterloo in February 2004. A police vehicle driven by a Redfern officer rammed TJ’s bike.
He was impaled on the fence and died in hospital the next day. There has been a corrupt coronial inquest, and a cover-up by the NSW government and Redfern police, and continuous protests. But eight years later there is still no justice for the young Aboriginal man and his family.
This year, the eighth anniversary of his death, the rally, called by the Indigenous Social Justice Association in the name of the Hickey family, remembered his death and recommitted to the fight for justice.
Speakers from the Hickey family, Aboriginal leaders, political organisations from interstate and Sydney remembered TJ, how he died and particularly what happened after his death. Two minutes of silence were observed at 11.20am, the time of his impalement.
A spirited march followed, headed by TJ's mother, Gail Hickey, and the family. The march demanded justice, the end of black deaths in custody and for Aboriginal rights.
It stopped in front of the Redfern courthouse to observe another two minutes' silence and highlight the lack of justice in the courts for Aboriginal people.
The next stop was in front of Redfern police station. Police tried to hinder demonstrators and changed the previously agreed place to gather. But the strong action of the participants ensured that the agreements were respected.
Heavy rain began to fall, but the group remained on the street and kept marching. President of the Indigenous Social Justice Association Ray Jackson said: “Don’t go away this is not rain these are tears for TJ.”
After two more minutes of silence, the march finished at The Block, where another two minutes of silence were observed, fulfilling the promise to observe one minute for every year since his death until justice has been achieved.
A BBQ organised by Gail was offered to the participants and was a good opportunity for everyone “to sit down and have a good yarn”, as an elder said.
When the marchers left, the resounding chant in The Block could still be heard: “They say accident, we say murder.”
The action reenergised the “Justice for TJ” campaign. New people have become involved, including bigger Aboriginal participation and members of the Occupy movement.
The campaign will renew fight to have a plaque fixed where TJ was fatally injured, which has been refused by Redfern police. A “poster plaque” will be placed at the site every week to remind everyone how it will look.
The national campaign against Aboriginal deaths in custody has been restarted as a result of the Tent Embassy 40th anniversary. Representatives of different campaigns around Australia decided to make public every single death in custody, on the streets if possible.
As one participant said: “If we could remember TJ and the way that he died every day, instead of every year, justice would be closer.”