“The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.” ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 23, spoken by the character Atticus
A number of speakers at the rally called for unity up and down the East Coast of Australia to seek Aboriginal control of aboriginal affairs. Much talk focussed on the unrepresentative nature of indigenous politics in years past and the need for true representation of Murri needs and interests.
There was a call for silence prior to the trial of Snr Sgt Chris Hurley by lawyer Andrew Boe at the Invasion Day rally in Brisbane. He asked for there to be no comment about the guilt of Snr Sgt Hurley, and for Hurley to be given the presumption of innocence —a right Hurley never extended to his victim, Mulrunji.
In his speech, Andrew Boe (pictured speaking) also endorsed the laying of a manslaughter charge by the Attorney General instead of a murder charge.
You would think that under the criminal justice system the jury would be left to decide if Snr Sgt Hurley murdered Mulrunji? Andrew Boe is a reformer, he accepts the system, wears its clothes, like Atticus in “To Kill a Mockingbird” wishes only to dress it up in different clothes without changing the substance beneath.
This trial has come about because of those active on Palm and the political organisation of the mob from Jagara under the leadership of Sam Watson. They have refused to be silenced by threats of the police union, jail terms, and government support of the conservative DPP. The government’s support of the DPP remains despite her failure to make a decision based on the facts of Mulrunji’s killing. She had chosen either not to read or to ignore the facts revealed in the Coroner’s report.
Lex Wotton (pictured at right) —the Palm Island man charged with riot, willful damage etc— is likely to be tried before Sgt Hurley such is the nature of the criminal justice system in Queensland.
What chance has Lex Wotton got of avoiding a lengthy jail term after the Qld Attorney General appealed to the Supreme Court in December 2006 for larger sentences against other Palm Islanders similarly charged? A single mother was given six months in prison on charges of throwing a rock.
Speaking at the rally, Lex Wotton humbly put his faith in the people who had supported him like those who attended rallies on Palm and in Brisbane on Invasion Day.
This is a tricky situation for Murri activists and their supporters because the justice system is designed to exclude relevant facts from the jury. The Criminal Justice system is staged managed by conservative judges, prosecutors and lawyers. The judicial system is biased against political activists and Aborigines as evidenced by the increased sentences meted out to those on Palm who expressed grief and outrage over the whitewash of Mulrunji’s killing by Snr Sgt Hurley.
The jury system in Queensland has bad chapters like the Joh jury. In that case a National Party plant led to Joh’s accquittal after he held out against the rest of the jury, ten of whom asked for Joh to be convicted. (See the ABC’s docu-drama ‘JOH’S JURY’). Also it is not uncommon to see confused and uncritical jurors being persuaded and brow beaten by manipulative judges and lawyers. No justice will derive from such a system.
As Sam Watson said at the rally, no matter what happens, nothing will bring back Mulrunji and the others who have died in custody.
Sad river of tears
Two hundred years in the river of fear
Gunned him down.
Kev Carmody in “River of Tears” on Eulogy for a black person
Stop Black Deaths in custody!