Rallies demand truth about TJ Hickey's death
Tamara Pearson & Norman Brewer, Sydney
"We will have no peace until the truth comes out", Thomas "TJ" Hickey's Aunt Gail told a rally in Redfern on February 13. The protest, attended by more than 200 people, marked the first anniversary of TJ's death.
The action was part of a national day of action initiated by the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) and demanded the reopening of the coronial inquest into TJ's death.
The rally began near the Waterloo Towers where TJ was fatally injured after a police chase. Chanting "Too many police, not enough justice", protesters marched via the Redfern police station to the Redfern Block.
ISJA president Jackson recounted how police had removed TJ from the fence on which he was impaled, against common first aid knowledge, and despite him bleeding profusely. They also sent away the Police Emergency Service. Jackson said people who went to the police station afterwards alleged that the back wheel of TJ's bike was clearly not the original one, which is believed to have been buckled when a pursuing police car rammed TJ on his bike into the fence.
"It will never be out of the minds of the grieving family and community, who will keep fighting until we get a proper result: a reopening of the inquiry and presentation of the evidence not allowed the first time round", said Jackson.
The University of Technology Sydney's students' association donated a plaque with TJ's portrait, which reads: "On the 14th February, 2004, TJ Hickey, aged 17, was impaled upon the metal fence above, arising from a police pursuit. The young man died as a result of his wounds the next day. In our hearts you will stay TJ." Police, the NSW government and the Department of Housing have refused to allow the plaque to be placed on the wall below the fence unless the words "police pursuit" were changed to "tragic accident". TJ's mother Gail Hickey told the media: "I ain't going to change no words for no-one."
Commenting on those in Redfern and on Palm Island who were arrested after protesting police violence in their communities, Raul Bassi from the Socialist Alliance told the crowd that until all charges are dropped against them, there will be no justice. On the impending redevelopment and privatisation of Redfern, Bassi said, "Redfern is black land" to thunderous clapping.
Paul Miller reports that 200 people rallied on the same day in Melbourne. Protesters expressed their outrage not only at the miscarriage of justice in TJ's case, but also at the harassment of the Aboriginal community on Palm Island and the wages that have been stolen from generations of Aboriginal workers.
The rally marched to the Melbourne Custody Centre and observed one minute's silence to remember all those who have died in custody. Troy Austin, former ATSIC commissioner, told the rally, "The police should be there to protect, not to maim and kill."
In Sydney on February 15, a delegation of protesters joined Jackson and Aunty Bowie Hickey to deliver a petition to NSW attorney-general Bob Debus. The petition, signed by almost 3000 people, called for the reopening of the coronial inquest, demanding a written response within four weeks.
NSW Premier Bob Carr has announced that he won't set up a new inquiry. Protesters are now planning a rally during the Easter weekend. The first meeting to organise the protest will take place on February 25. For more information visit <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Redfern-Waterloo>.
From Green Left Weekly, February 23, 2005.
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