First Nations advocates and families of people who have died in custody are planning a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest on October 26, the first day of the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Black deaths in custody and the mass incarceration of Aboriginal people.
Organisers told a media conference on October 16 at the Tree of Knowledge, behind NSW Parliament, that their intention was to hold the rally in the Domain on October 26. The rally will follow strict COVID-19 safety protocols.
Since the huge BLM protests in June, police have used COVID-19 health regulations to try and stop, or break-up protests. They have also arrested and fined organisers.
However, a recent Supreme Court ruling against police attempts to stop a demonstration organised by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at Sydney University has given First Nations’ organisers confidence to plan the rally.
Gadigal descendant and Elder Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor, addressed the media, outlining the historical importance of Djabarrgalli (Sydney Domain) where the rally will take place.
Keenan Mundine, a co-founder of Deadly Connections, who has lived experience of the prison system and dealing with the trauma of Black deaths in custody, stressed the need to “invest in community-controlled organisations, not new prisons”.
CEO of the NSW Aboriginal Legal Service Karly Warner emphasised why democratic minded people needed to oppose new anti-protest laws, saying: “We can not allow governments to avoid scrutiny on these undemocratic laws. We must allow protests to be heard.”
Paddy Gibson, from the Jumbunna Institute at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), said the protest would demand a “proper First Nations-led inquiry into deaths in custody” that is independent of NSW police and Corrections.
Other protest demands are for an end to the “mass incarceration of Aboriginal people” and the “urgent investment into community-based programs as an alternative to prison”.
October 26 is also when the Northern Territory courts will decide whether Constable Zachary Rolfe will face trial for murder for shooting Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker in Yuendumu last November 9.
On October 19, an inquest began into the 2018 death of 36-year-old Gamilaraay man Nathan Reynolds who had an asthma attack in prison in Windsor at the Lidcombe Coronial Court. Reynolds died after it took 40 minutes for help to arrive to the New South Wales minimum security correctional facility where he was being held.