Mulrunji Campaign Strategy

A number of proposals were put to a large community meeting at Jagara Hall in West End on Tuesday, 6 Feb 2007.

These proposals were passed unanimously.

They included the following:

  1. If the police march on Qld parliament a peaceful demonstration be held by the community in support of justice for Mulrunji. Proposed by Sam Watson on behalf of several speakers. Carried by all.
  2. That a letter be written to the police union requesting two Murri speakers on their platform if/when police march on parliament. Proposed by Lionel Fogarty carried unanimously with a volunteer to write the letter in consultation with Aunty Jean.
  3. That a mini-bus be hired to transport a Murri delegation to Sydney to represent the community’s support for the Koori demonstrations in Sydney in support of a new coronial inquiry being held into the death of T J Hickey [the young koori boy impaled on a fence while being pursued by NSW police]. Proposed by Sam Watson. Carried unanimously. Funds must be raised to hire the minibus. A 25-seater would cost approx. $1,000 for the round trip (includes hire, insurance, & fuel).

stop-black-deaths-in-custody-invasion-day-march-2007.jpg

On the question of raising funds for a mini-bus people are asked to bring any money that they can raise in their workplaces or organisations and bring it to the next community meeting at Jagara Hall on Monday 12 Feb, 2007, at 12noon. Here is the notice prepared after the community meeting.

URGENT COMMUNITY NOTICE

NEXT WEDNESDAY ( 14TH / FEBRUARY ) IS THE THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF THE TRAGIC DEATH IN CUSTODY OF TJ HICKEY.

THERE WILL BE A FULL PROGRAM OF RALLIES AND MARCHES IN REDFERN TO COMMEMORATE THIS TERRIBLE EVENT

TO THIS DAY, NO POLICE OFFICER HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH ANY OFFENCE IN RELATION TO THIS DEATH

THE SYDNEY KOORIE COMMUNITY ELDERS AND LEADERS, HAVE ISSUED A FORMAL INVITATION TO THE BRISBANE MURRI COMMUNITY TO COME TO REDFERN AND STAND WITH THEM ON THIS DAY

OUR BRISBANE MURRI COMMUNITY HAS MADE THE ISSUE OF ABORIGINAL DEATHS IN CUSTODY, A MAJOR POLITICAL PRIORITY FOR THIS YEAR

THROUGH OUR RALLIES, MARCHES AND PROTESTS – WE HAVE ACHIEVED A REAL AND DEFINITE OUTCOME IN THE PALM ISLAND DEATH OF OUR BROTHER, MULRUNJIE DOOMADGEE.

NEXT WEEK WE WOULD LIKE TO SEND A MINI BUS TO SYDNEY TO STAND STRONG FOR THE HICKEY FAMILY AND REDFERN COMMUNITY

WE ARE SEEKING DONATIONS AND SUPPORT TO DO THIS, IF YOU CAN HELP IN ANY WAY PLEASE, COME TO THE JAGARA HALL IN MUSGRAVE PARK AT 12 NOON ON MONDAY, 12TH./ FEB.

( All inquiries – please phone SAM WATSON 0401227443 )
Stop Black Deaths in Custody
I was asked by a Palestinian Human Rights activist at a meeting on Sunday, 4 Feb 2007 what was the best strategy to stop Black Deaths in Custody in Queensland. This is written in the context of a proposed march by the police union on parliament in support of Snr Sgt Hurley.
One crucial thing that must be stopped is that Queensland police stop bashing Murris in custody.

To understand what strategy should be adopted we must first understand the circumstances of Mulrunji’s death.

Recommnedation that Hurley be charged
In the case of Mulrunji, the NSW judge, Laurence Street, has found that there are two possible explanations for the medical evidence that came out of inquests into Mulrunji’s death.

One was that Hurley bashed Mulrunji.

The other was that Hurley had accidentally fallen on Mulrunji.

Hurley is 6’7’’ (201 cm) tall and over 17 stone (about 110 kilos) in weight. Mulrunji was about 10 stone and 185 cm tall.

However Hurley said that he did not fall on Mulrunji. Hurley stated on several occasions that he fell beside Mulrunji on the threshold of the Palm Island watchouse. It was only when Hurley’s team realised the full extent of the medical evidence that he changed his testimony (during the second coronial inquiry).

If Hurley were to be convicted then police that bash Murris would stop. This is because it becomes too risky for them i.e. they might be charged with assault or manslaughter.

A conviction on a charge of manslaughter would send a clear message to police. Perhaps even a full trial before a jury may discourage Qld police from bashing Murris.

However that either of these things will occur is still not certain. A conviction is a difficult thing to get. All Hurley need show in a jury trial is that reasonable doubt exists.

Nevertheless the Murris leadership have been for fighting for Hurley to be charged since November 2004 (i.e. since Mulrunji died).

During this campaign the number of Murris coming out onto the streets and demonstrating their support for justice for aboriginal people has steadily increased. On Invasion Day 2007 there were over a thousand on the streets in Brisbane and a large number on Palm.

Support
Non-indigenous supporters have been there as well but the rallies and marches have been of aboriginal people under black leadership. Under Sam Watson’s leadership even conservative Murris like former senior aboriginal police officer, Col Dillon, and Aboriginal lawyer and commentator, Noel Pearson, have come out in support of demands and demonstrations that Hurley be charged with Mulrunji’s killing.

The only people arrested in the Mulrunji campaign have been Murris on Palm Island, some of whom are yet to stand trial on serious offences that involve long terms of imprisonment.

No-one has been arrested in any of the many street marches that have been organised in Brisbane over the past year.

The strategy followed by the Murri leadership in the Brisbane marches has put pressure on the government to indict Hurley despite the refusal by the DPP to do so.

Now the Police Union has proposed a march of its own.

They have tried to mobilise police by borrowing a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in custody: That recommendation was that cameras be introduced into watchouses around Queensland to provide surveillance of black persons in custody.

This is a weak strategy by the police union but its intention is clear—to mobilise support for Hurley. It suggests that the police union can find no answer to the damning evidence against Hurley.

Another reason for its weakness is that there was a video camera already installed in the Palm Island Watchouse in November 2004. This video did not record Mulrunji being bashed [there is evidence that it had been turned of while this happened. But video did record Mulrunj’s death.

The coroner (Clements) had this to say about the recording of Mulrunji’s death:

“The second and third matters raised by the family were that Mulrunji cried out for help from the cell after being fatally injured, and no help came. The images from the cell video tape of Mulrunji, writhing in pain as he lay dying on the cell floor, were shocking and terribly distressing to family and anyone who sat through that portion of the evidence. The sounds from the cell surveillance tape are unlikely to be forgotten by anyone who was in court and heard that tape played. There is clear evidence that this must have been able to be heard from the police station day-room where the monitor was running.(At page 32 of 35 of “Finding of inquest into the death of Mulrunji“).

Strategy
It has been proposed that non-indigenous people take a higher profile in their support of the Mulrunji campaign. It has even been suggested that non-indigenous supporters take the lead in protest against proposed police marches on parliament in the coming week (4 Feb 2007). During the past week, there have been silent protests like holding the aboriginal flag outside the mass meetings of police voting to march.

However a police march may not get off the ground. It is one thing for police to meet behind closed doors; it is another for cops to come out on the street.

It would be a mistake to put non-indigenous people in the forefront of this campaign especially at this time. Support in numbers by non-indigenous people is fine but it is the aboriginal people who have fought this struggle under aboriginal leadership and it is only they that can win it.

It has been said that there is a risk of arrest of black people at marches. There is no evidence of this being true. Particularly under the current Murri leadership. It would be extremely foolish at this crucial stage for police to arrest aboriginal people engaged in peaceful protest.

For another group to substitute itself for this leadership under the notion that it may reduce the risk for aboriginal activists is not a good strategy.

For aboriginal people to continue their public demonstration against police violence with support of non-indigenous people has been the strategy that has got us this far, and it is this strategy that may even achieve the impossible—a policeman convicted for killing an aboriginal person for the first time in Australia’s long history of oppression of Aboriginal people. But remember this, the coroner tried to find the truth; the trial will be a contest of Hurley’s lawyers and judges in the courts to conceal that truth.

One response to “Mulrunji Campaign Strategy

  1. Cheryl Kaulfuss

    It’s time for some REAL justice for Aboriginal people in this their own country. What have we seen since the Recommendations were handed down following the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody all those years ago. We’ve seen vast amounts of taxpayers $ being spent but still the deaths in custody (or should we call them in all honesty what they really are “murders in custody”) continue relentlessly. Not only do they continue to happen but families such as the Doomadgee family, the Hickey family and all the other families who have lost loved ones in this way continue to have justice denied while those responsible for the loss of lives collude, cover-up and ensure that investigations are corrupted to such an
    extent that the truth remains untold. Only when some REAL legals get their teeth into these cases will the truth be uncovered as to
    the real circumstances in the deaths of Mulrunji, TJ Hickey and all those other deaths in custody. How can Mulrunji, TJ and the other
    Aboriginal people who have lost their lives as Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in this their own country rest peacefully while this denial continues.
    In Mulrunji’s case of course we saw the Acting Qld. Coroner make her brave findings on what had happened to Mulrunji but in TJ Hickey’s
    case there was much forensic and other evidence withheld or not called for – e.g. the bicycle TJ was riding at the time, the police vehicle alleged to have been involved in the “incident”, forensic scene examination, bionengineering aspects of the mechanism of injury were not fully pursued, first aid implications were not pursued, exact cause of death was not fully explored, ‘bystander’ witness evidence was not fully pursued, detailed examination of the deceased’s clothing was not made in reference to his injuries, VKG records not presented, ambulance service and police rescue personnel who attended “the incident scene” not called to take the stand, Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers denied the right to take the stand and the list goes on!
    Justice – what justice is their for Aboriginal people in this country.
    There is constant harassment and intimidation in their daily lives on an unacceptable and ongoing basis! How can this so-called democratic country stand by and allow such terrorism and torture to be visited on our First Nations people? It’s time for us to do something as to do nothing means we are part of the problem.
    Remember evil reigns when good people do nothing.
    It’s time to do something to change this appalling state of affairs.

    Like

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