Michelle Brear, Sydney
The coronial inquest into the death of Thomas "TJ" Hickey was a "whitewash", Ray Jackson, president of the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA), told the 150-strong crowd that packed Redfern Town Hall on February 8.
The meeting was part of an ISJA campaign demanding that the inquest is reopened into the death of TJ, a 17-year-old Aboriginal man who died the day after he was impaled on a fence following a police pursuit in Redfern on February 14 last year.
The original coronial inquest into TJ's death ignored evidence suggesting that it was a result of police misconduct. The inquest also failed to call several key witnesses to testify, including constable Michael Hollingsworth, the officer driving the pursuit vehicle (who has since been promoted).
TJ's mother Gail Hickey stood beside his Aunty Gail, as she condemned the police cover-up and thanked attendees for their support in continuing the struggle for justice. She stressed the need for non-violent action.
NSW Greens parliamentarian Lee Rhiannon condemned the state government's unconditional confidence in the police and lack of support for the Hickey family and the Redfern community.
The need to fight state government plans to redevelop publicly owned land in Redfern was discussed by Geoff Turnbull, spokesperson for the REDWatch community group (Redfern, Eveleigh, Darlington and Waterloo watch). The redevelopment will benefit corporations, not ordinary people, and is an attack on Indigenous land rights, he said.
Raul Bassi, national co-convenor of the Socialist Alliance, pointed out that black deaths at the hands of the police would not stop without fundamental social change. He highlighted the alliance's policy on Indigenous justice, which includes returning stolen wages, compensation for the stolen generation, a treaty and real land rights for Indigenous people.
Richard Frankland, chairperson of Melbourne-based Aboriginal party Your Voice, sent solidarity greetings. A message from Indigenous activist Sam Watson and the Brisbane Murri community stated: "The police and the authorities may refer to these wanton killings [in Redfern and on Palm Island] as 'deaths in custody', but we call them for what they really are: police murders! Cold-blooded police butchery!"
From London, independent journalist John Pilger also sent a solidarity message: "The death of TJ Hickey and the cover-up that followed is just another injustice which must not be allowed to go unchallenged. Those of you who are challenging it, and supporting the Hickey family and Aboriginal people everywhere, are those defending true human rights and true democracy in Australia, and I salute you."
The meeting closed with a resolution, seconded by the ISJA, the Socialist Alliance and the Greens, to organise a big protest during the Easter weekend if NSW Labor Premier Bob Carr does not respond to the call for re-opening the inquest.
From Green Left Weekly, February 16, 2005.
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