Aboriginal rights protesters gathered outside the Northern Territory tourism bureau in Sydney on March 21 to protest the death in custody of 28-year-old Aboriginal man Terrence Briscoe, and to condemn the “Stronger Futures” bill that will extend the NT intervention.
Deaths in custody campaigner Ray Jackson told the rally: “When Terrence died in a police cell, the family were first told it was a heart attack. Then it was respiratory. Then it was asphyxiation. How do you asphyxiate? When police jump all over you, forcing your breath out.
“The same happened to Mulrunji [Doomadgee on Palm Island, Queensland] and other deaths in custody. Six police against one. Terrence was knocked down, dragged into a cell, we don't know if he was breathing at that time.”
Paddy Gibson from the Stop The Intervention Collective Sydney said: “Witnesses say police were sitting on Terrence and laughing while he suffocated on the floor. When he was picked up he was limp.”
Briscoe’s aunt, Patricia Morton-Thomas, told the rally by phone that more deaths in custody would occur, especially if the NT intervention is not scrapped.
Aboriginal activist and author Nicole Watson said that the intervention was “the most extreme form” of governments “treating Aboriginal people not with dignity and respect, but as a problem to be controlled”.
She said the intervention’s measures included “compulsory acquisition of Aboriginal lands, imposition of the income management regime not dissimilar to the ‘protection era’, and the winding back of the racial discrimination act”.
Watson said: “When Labor came to power, they acknowledged the intervention had been an imposition — yet they’ve adopted the same policy.”
Gibson said that March 21 was an important anniversary for the South African anti-apartheid struggle and was also a United Nations day for action to eliminate racial discrimination.
He said: “Yet we have apartheid here. If you’re Black the police can enter your house without a warrant. If you’re Black the police can jail you for six months for having a single can of beer.
“Stronger Futures is Australia’s apartheid. They want to implement the intervention for another 10 years. We will fight them as long as it takes.”