The campaign to throw out all charges against Palm Island Aboriginal leader Lex Wotton is gaining momentum. The Indigenous Social Justice Association, Melbourne (ISJA) is organising a Victorian speaking tour with him from August 6-10.
Wotton participated in the November 2004 protest against the killing in police custody of his friend Mulrunji, a respected community member and father. Singled out in the crackdown that followed, Wotton faces charges of "riot with destruction", which could lead to a jail sentence of more than 10 years.
A blatant cover-up of what happened to Mulrunji in the Palm Island watch house enraged the community. Responding to years of racist state violence they are demanding justice.
What triggered the angry protest was the release of the first state inquiry into Mulrunji's killing that, while noting that he had suffered a ruptured liver and four broken ribs, concluded that his death resulted from a "scuffle".
A second coronial inquiry, in September 2006, confirmed what everyone knew: that on November 19, 2004, at the Palm Island police station, senior sergeant Chris Hurley struck Mulrunji with such force that it caused the Aboriginal man to die.
Four hundred people took part in the 2004 Palm Island demonstration that marched on the police station and courthouse — the symbols of racist injustice.
Queensland authorities retaliated with vicious repression, and targeted individuals for persecution. Despite a jury acquitting four of those charged with "riot" over the November 2004 protest, the state continues to scapegoat Wotton, who they allege was the ringleader.
The Victorian tour of Wotton will help strengthen the campaign for justice for Mulrunji and himself. Wotton will address a benefit night, organised by ISJA Melbourne, on August 9 at the MUA Hall, 54 Ireland Street in West Melbourne.
For more details, see the calendar listing on page 23 or phone Cheryl on 0401 806 331.