Rally protests Black deaths in custody

Issue 
Stop black deaths in custody rally, Brisbane, May 19. Photo: Ted Reithmuller

Sam Watson, Aboriginal community leader and Socialist Alliance senate candidate for Queensland, spoke at a May 19 rally outside state parliament.

He called for the sacking of police commissioner Bob Atkinson; the charging and conviction of police who kill Indigenous prisoners; for investigation of police to be carried out by an independent, community panel; and for a new Royal Commission into Black deaths in custody.

The rally followed the release of open findings by coroner Brian Hines at the third inquest into the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee at the hands of senior sergeant Chris Hurley on Palm Island in November 2004.

"This business has now gone on far too long”, Watson told the rally of about 80 people.

“The latest inquest, in a 161-page report, made clear findings against police. Aboriginal and other people in the Queensland community should feel very disturbed about what happened in 2004 and afterwards. The Doomadgee family is still waiting for closure.

“We are supporting their case for civil damages now being brought before the courts. On the existing weight of evidence, they should secure a just outcome.

“Police in this state are still above the law. If the police commissioner can't hold them to account, then it's up to us in the community to do so”, he said.

Greens candidate for the federal seat of Brisbane Andrew Bartlett said: “We must ensure this issue doesn't go away. The over-representation of Indigenous people in jails has increased, not decreased in recent times.”

Ewan Saunders, Socialist Alliance candidate for Brisbane, said: “The federal election is a good opportunity to make Aboriginal deaths in custody an important issue, along with other key questions — particularly the Northern Territory intervention against Aboriginal communities there.

“Today is part of that struggle to highlight these issues. We also need to demand the release of political prisoner Lex Wotton, who was scapegoated for the uprising by Palm Island people following the killing of Mulrunji.”

Saunders called for support for the Justice Bus Ride 2010, taking buses from Brisbane and other cities to the NT in July, to mobilise community support for Aboriginal rights.