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No Justice for Aboriginal people

‘Come on people, we can’t accept this’ Lex Wotton, 26 November 2004, at Palm Island Community Meeting after Mulrunji was killed by Snr Sgt Hurley.

Guilty walk free while innocent are convicted
You only have to read the articles in the mainstream media to know that Lex Wotton was falsely tried in Brisbane’s District Court over the past three weeks (6 – 24 October 2008).

As the guards took Lex Wotton into custody on 25 October 2008, Lex shook hands with the people who supported him during a long and gruelling trial and thanked us for hanging in there. He was then taken to prison by correctional services staff, as a political prisoner.

In the words of Sam Watson, “It’s business as usual in the sovereign state of Queensland.

The following is an analysis of what led up to this situation in Queensland where the guilty walk free while innocent are convicted.

Contents

  1. Palm Island – then and now
  2. An Aboriginal death in custody : the case of John Pat
  3. Bad News — analysis of media
  4. Lex Wotton family strong
  5. Unlawful assembly
  6. Springbok Tour
  7. Palm Island
  8. Defence Weaknesses — where the legal team fell down
  9. 26 November 2004
  10. Roy Bramwell breaks down
  11. Who is a leader?
  12. Police sought to divide the Community on Palm
  13. Angry but organised — the political response
  14. Lies, lies and videotapes
  15. The Jury
  16. Lex Wotton’s Demands
  17. Sentencing

Palm Island – then and now

Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties
Are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise
While Rubin sits like Buddha in a ten-foot cell
An innocent man in a living hell. —  Hurricane, Bob Dylan

The Townsville Correctional Centre replaced the old Townsville Prison at Stuart Creek.

As any Murri will tell you, most aboriginal men who live on Palm Island will at some time in their lives spend time in that prison.

Stuart Creek, as it was called, was a 19th century bucket-in-your-cell prison.

stuart creek.jpg

This what Stuart Creek Gaol in T’vlle was like in 1980

There are people doing life sentences there for doing nothing. Palm itself is a prison and has a long history of being used as a penal settlement by the colonialists. In 1957 the Palm Island people went on strike against these penal conditions and again in 1984 to win conditions for the workers on th island and their families. This struggle is the subject of a film called Protected by Allesandro and Fabio Cavadini.

Protected

Emily Dunn, June 27, 2007 wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Telling tales of an island bad times never left”
AS A schoolboy, Lex Wotton remembers watching his father on film in Protected, the story of the 1957 strike on Palm Island against protective legislation curtailing the freedoms of its mostly Aboriginal population in the former penal colony.

Under the legislation Aborigines needed permission to marry or to walk out onto the reefs bordering the Queensland island. Wotton, 40, said that screening opened his eyes to the way “things were different on Palm”.

“There are numerous things that people haven’t documented but this [film] was one thing that brought what was happening to the indigenous people to the attention of the wider community,” Wotton said.

Ian Curr
25 October 2008.

 

***

An Aboriginal death in custody : the case of John Pat
The article below gives some background information about this most notorious case of an Aboriginal death-in-custody and the way Aboriginal people have been treated on their own land by their guests; the white people of Australia (See http://www.maryg.net/johnpat.html).

The town of Roebourne is in Western Australia, situated 1200 km north of Perth in the Pilbara Region, It lies in the traditional lands of the Ngarluma people. Whites first settled there in 1864. Roebourne was substantially affected by the mining boom of the 1960s, which saw nearby Karratha become the regional centre. By the early 1980s Roebourne had a population of 1200, with about 800 of Aboriginal descent.

On 28 September 1983, four police officers and an Aboriginal police aide returned to Roebourne from a police union meeting at Karratha. They were off duty, and had each drunk six or seven glasses of beer at the Karratha Golf Club. Upon their return to Roebourne, they called in at the Victoria. One Aboriginal, Ashley James, was threatened by one of the off-duty policemen when he sought to make a purchase at the bottle shop. A barmaid later testified that police swore at James and threatened to get him when he left the hotel: ‘”We’ll get you, you black cunt“.

James himself later testified that one of the police subsequently accosted him outside on the footpath, and told him to ‘get fucked’. James then claimed that he fought back, and was then attacked by the other police. A brawl began with Aborigines and police trading punches. A sixteen-year-old Aboriginal youth, John Pat, joined the fray, and according to witnesses, was struck in the face by a policeman and fell backward, striking his head hard on the roadway.

Witnesses said one of the off-duty police went over to Pat and kicked him in the head. Pat was then allegedly dragged to a waiting police van, kicked in the face, and thrown in ‘like a dead kangaroo’ Pat and three other Aborigines were driven to the Roebourne police station.

Observers across the street from the station alleged that the Aborigines were systematically beaten as they were taken from the police van. One after another, the prisoners were dragged from the van and dropped on the cement pathway. Each was picked up, punched to the ground, and kicked. According to one observer, none of the prisoners fought back or resisted. One witness from across the street said she could hear the sound of loud blows, and ‘come on, fight, you bastard’.

One of the prisoners said he had spent a week in hospital as a result of his injuries. Another said his head had been slammed repeatedly on the concrete until he passed out. John Pat, however, was taken to the police lockup, and a little over an hour later, when police sought to check on him, he was dead. A subsequent autopsy revealed a fractured skull, haemorrhage and swelling as well as bruising and tearing, of the brain.

He had sustained a number of massive blows to the head. In addition to the head injuries, he had two broken ribs and a torn aorta, the major blood vessel leading from the heart. The autopsy also showed that John Pat had a blood alcohol reading of .222.

To listen to Mark Bin Bakar’s musical arrangement and performance of the Jack Davis poem, click  ‘John Pat’ to load it up.

You have an all-white court: a white judge, white lawyers, a white jury deciding on the merits of a case that involves very deep Aboriginal cultural issues.

From an ABC report: ‘There is no justice for Aboriginal people within the courts of Queensland‘ – Sam Watson

Mr Watson indicated Mr Wotton would be speaking with his lawyers about the possibility of an appeal against the conviction.

He also said that there would be major rallies in all major Australian cities to protest against the death.”

Lex Wotton family strong
There was no better example of strength and resolve outside the court after the guilty verdict than that shown by Wotton’s family, especially his mother, Aunty Agnes. Her grandchildren were crying, Cecilia (Lex Wotton’s wife) could barely stand, his sisters, Fleur and Agnes Jnr were in shock, but Aunty Agnes kept saying “Common now, be strong, we are going to get through this”. This is a person, an elder of 64 years who had been harrassed, charged by police along with 23 others who were arrested and taken from the island. But Aunty Agnes was eventually acquitted. Lex Wotton’s sisters were strong as well, his sister Agnes saying later that night  “I thought I was going to break down, but I feel strong, Lex has made me strong”.

Unlawful Assembly in Queensland
Thirty-one years ago the largest mass arrest of people in Australian history occurred in Queensland. The Bjelke Petersen government was in power. This government ruled with an iron fist. Aboriginal people were subject to the racist Queensland Acts which confined many Murris to aboriginal reserves under the strict control of government authorities and the churches (see map for the divisions controlled by church and state) .

In 1977, ordinary people rose up against these laws and other laws used against workers, women and aboriginal people.  Aboriginal people were the worst hit by the repressive policies of the Bjelke Petersen regime. At a rally in opposition to uranium mining and export on 22 October 1977, four hundred and eighteen (418) people were arrested near King George Square in what the marchers called the ‘valley of death’ in Albert Street. At the time, Michael Shanahan was in his final year of law at Queensland University. The assembly and march were declared illegal by police. Police rioted in the street against the ordinary people and arrested and detained 418 people for many hours in nearby lockups, watchouses, and in crowded vans and paddy wagons. This only because people tried to exercise the right to demonstrate.

Springbok Tour
Some years before this, in 1971, police attacked demonstrators assembled in front of the Tower Mill motel. Country police, used to jailing Murris, attacked the crowd on behalf of the establishment who wanted to see the Springboks (during the White South African apartheid regime) play against the Green & Gold.

The games went ahead at the exhibition grounds in Brisbane with police assistance (shown below).

Qld Police assembled inside Exhibition Grounds prior to Springbok Rugby gameHowever in Sydney the Builders Labourers’ Federation had different ideas. Two union officials, Jack Phillips and Bob Pringle took down the goal posts so the game could not be played.

They were arrested and convicted. This was under the Crimes Act 1900 (s247), the judge told the jury:

I can sum up the legal position quite simply. There is no Australian law or statute which gives any person the right to damage the property of another in order to give effect to any United Nations resolutions or declarations upon racial discrimination. It is no defence to say that merely to say that the damage was caused by way of protest against apartheid… expression of views may be ventilated if unaccompanied by damage or violence.

The trial had been attended by a large number of builders labourers; there were several hundred either in or near the court. Before the court was opened on 23 August 1972 Jack Mundey addressed the several hundred builders’ labourers who were present outside the court and in the course of this address he told them that it was a serious situation that Bob Pringle and John Phillips were to be sentenced. He asked that the people in the court be quiet so as not to arouse any ire by the authorities against the two convicted.

And the court was quiet.

Both men were released with fines and after the court. Jack Mundey said after the court was adjourned that the reason they were not jailed was becasue of the solidarity of the building workers assembled at the courthouse:

I think that once again it (the judgement) showed that the judge himself was a racist. It shows you the extent to which racism exists within our society and it shows a tremendous problem we have, all Australians, to overcome this deeply ingrained racism … Jack Mundey went on to speak about the White Australian Policy about what he said was ‘the disgraceful treatment of the aborigines over 184 years’ and ‘while we cannot influence all strata of society we ourselves of the industrial working class have a very big problem to overcome racism amongst our workers’.

For this the judge found Jack Mundey in contempt of court but did not send him to jail. [From Attorney General for NSW v. Mundey NSW Law Reports 1972 Vol 2 pp887 – 917.  Judgment was given in the Common Law Division by Justice Hope dates of hearing were Nov 15-17, 20, 21, Dec 21 1972]

Palm Island
Thirty-six years later Judge Michael Shanahan has declared to a jury that an assembly on Palm Island after the death of Mulrunji was unlawful. The Queensland justice system was unfair in 1977 and it is unfair still, Queensland law is unjust. It stated in 1977 and still states that you only need three (3) people to make a riot. To be in a ‘riot with destruction’ carries a maximum life sentence.

The law opposes what the judge calls ‘unlawful assembly’, especially when people are upset that one of their brothers has been killed by the police. The judge in this case has described when people came together in Police Lane on Palm Island to ask the police why Hurley had not been charged with Mulrunji’s murder and had not been sent from Palm Island. The judge said that an unlawful assembly, what he called ‘an agitated movement of people’; ‘accompanied by noise’; where people ‘are emotionally aroused’; and that may bring ‘fear of injury to a person (or) property’; He declared that this is ‘a breach of the peace’.

Defence Weaknesses — where the legal team fell down
While waiting for the jury in the court one of Lex Wotton’s barristers, Mr King, admitted to a tactical error made by the defence during the trial. The defence took a decision early in the trial to have David Hume’s video entered into evidence during cross examination which meant, under Queensland law,  the defence would not get right of reply to the crown barrister in summing up to the jury. During the trial I told a journalist that I could not see any riot on the videotapes shown in court. After some discussion he said that I was mistaken because ‘it (my argument) was just semantics’ But that is what the law is, brother – semantics, no Justice, just a game.

The defence underestimated  the aboriginal witnesses brought by the police. The death of Mulrunji caused division in the Palm Island Community. The police exploited this. The defence especially underestimated Terence Kidner who came to court with police minders. He was fearful of going back to jail, the police made sure of this. So when he was cross examined by the defence, he stuck to his story that Lex Wotton had given him a petrol tin and told him to burn Hurley’s house. The defence barrister tried to have his evidence excluded from the trial because a psychologist said Terence Kidner was unintelligent. But the defence just could not understand his words. He was sticking to the story the police gave him. His evidence needed to be contradicted. Why wasn’t he protected from police influence?

There was no way the defence was going to win this case, it is too political. If the state let Lex Wotton go free then that means the defence barrister, Clive Steirn, was right when he accused Queensland police of “lying through their teeth” to convict his client. The police union and their Minister Judy Spence were never going to let that happen.

26 November 2004
The people were upset and mourning the loss of their brother. Yet the judge says that this could be an unlawful assembly and a breach of the peace. A funeral procession may contain noise, emotion, agitation. Yet people cannot question the death of their brother. How can this be? How many rocks were thrown on the roof of the police station? How many police were injured? One said he had a bruise under his gun belt and it was caused by a rock. How do we know this is true?

Roy Bramwell breaks down
Roy Bramwell was present in the Palm Island police station when Hurley killed Mulrunji. The court allowed a video of Roy Bramwell into evidence but only on a limited basis ‘to provide background’.

All the officers of the court spoke as if many of the witnesses to these events were still alive and did not explain. Roy Bramwell’s brother Patrick is dead, Mulrunji’s son is dead, his mother is dead. There was no explanation why Roy Bramwell would not be giving evidence. Not only did they show disrespect to a man who had died and his family but they have demeaned the aboriginal witnesses in the trial as being simple, unintelligent, lacking understanding. The judge, defence lawyer and prosecutor have been joking at the expense of aboriginal witnesses while Palm Island people witness from the back of the court.

Yet when Roy Bramwell spoke to the crowd on Palm Island, standing there alone at the microphone, he broke down crying as he told the crowd what he saw in the watchouse on 19th November 2004. He described how Snr Sgt Hurley had repeatedly punched Mulrunji while he was lying on the floor of the watchouse. At the same time Hurley was abusing Mulrunji saying: “Do you want more, Mr Doomadgee, do you want more?” Roy Bramwell went on to say: “If I’d have stood up and said something they’d have took me in the cell and done the same thing to me.”

A policeman killed a man in custody and walks free and yet the people mourning his death are still accused of riot with destruction. Many have already been sent to jail with sentences up to four years and now Lex Wotton faces even more.

The police accuse Lex Wotton of destruction of the police and courthouse, a police car and Hurley’s house. No one says he actually did those things. They say he was the ‘principal’ actor by inciting people to do those things. The crown have accused him of being the leader. The crown prosecutor got up in court and said ‘the police gave an honest account of what happened’.

Who is a leader?
Then the prosecutor Cowen asked the jury what is a leader? A person who ‘gives clear concise instructions’. Mr Cowen says that Lex Wotton needed a mob to attack the police.  But that was not a mob. It was people upset about the death of Mulrunji. The prosecutor says that Lex Wotton used the microphone to incite the people, yet he spoke only a few words and then sat down to listen to the others speaking on that day (26 November 2008).

The words he spoke were: “I’ve spoken to young people” “Things are gonna burn” — why is this not just a statement of fact?

After the mayor, Erikah Kyle, reads out the autopsy report saying that Mulrunji’s death was an accident Lex Wotton said “Let’s do something more than this”. Why not? Everything had been swept under the carpet and all that was being offered was acceptance of this report and for due process to be followed. Due process that excused Hurley and his police mates.

“We’ll decide when” Lex Wotton said. Why should people under threat be forced to submit? Yet the prosecutor suggests this is an example of ‘pre-planning’ of ‘riot with destruction’.

The police verballed Lex Wotton putting so much abuse in his mouth as to make him sound like a animal not a human being. YET IT WAS THE POLICE WHO WERE hurling ABUSE at THE PALM ISLAND RESIDENTS. This never came out in the trial. The jury was shown a video shot by a police cameraman with the sound turned off and the abuse by the police could not be heard. Another thing that did not come out was the fact that Lex Wotton had two shoulder reconstructions and could not have possibly wielded the Stilsons (pipe wrench) in the way that the police claim. They set out to make Lex sound like a brute savage.

Police sought to divide the Community.
Of the 17 witnesses brought by the crown to prosecute Lex Wotton, seven witnesses were aboriginal or Torres Trait Islander. The government had sought to divide the local council as Lex Wotton describes in the video above. Not only that the police were actively seeking out aboriginal informers. They sought to inflame the situation on the island after Snr Sgt Hurley killed Mulrunji. And now they have brought informers from the commmunity into the court to testify against their brother. Shame on them.

Angry but organised — the political response
People should be angry at the verdict, they have a right to be angry, but we must direct that anger with purpose and organisation. As one indigenous person said leaving the court at 10 pm “there is never any justice for the black man”.  At the same time, a Torres Strait island woman held up a banner shouting outside the court the words of the banner “No more deaths in custody!”

Lex Wotton did not “incite a riot on Palm Island in 2004″ as the the ABC reports. The ABC reports of the charge were even wrong. Typical of the shoddy journalism in this trial and poor decision by a conservative jury. The hungry media only turned up in big numbers right at the end to feed on the result.

Lies, lies and videotapes
We didn’t see a video of Hurley bashing Mulrunji, or of the kick to the body by a policeman as Mulrunji lay dying on the cell floor of the police station. The video of the death cell exists. We do not hear the media clamour for that video. The coroner saw this and knew Hurley killed Mulrunji and then said so.

While the justice system is unfair how can we accept the verdict against Lex Wotton? Especially while the murder by police is not condemned.

It was released by the court yesterday without any reference or respect given to the people who made it or the people who are subjects of it. Such footage showing people on Palm Island upset at the death of Mulrunji was a telling feature of the jury’s consideration. They asked on Wednesday to see all three videos (one each made by police, media and indigenous persons) again. The court had viewed them several times. The jury ignored those aspects of the videos that exculpated Lex Wotton, they ignored admissions and lies by the police. They ignored the reason people on Palm were so upset. The brother Mulrunji had been killed by a policeman.

The Jury
I looked at the jury for three weeks during the trial. It is hard to tell what people are thinking, nay impossible. But you can observe how they look and what they do while sitting in the courtroom. This jury was 6 women and 6 men. Seven (7) were young (under 35 years). How many of these people had ever had a relationship with an aboriginal person?

Some did not look at the police, at least not very much, while police were giving evidence, they did not look while police were giving contradictory evidence to the video, other police, or witnesses from Palm. Most of the jury looked down when facing the gallery which had Lex Wotton’s mother, sisters, sons, and daughter along with supporters every day of the three week trial.  It looked to me as if some had already made up their minds that Lex was guilty by the middle of the second week. Were they thinking that the police do not lie that the system of justice could not be wrongheaded. Did they think, as one journo from the Australian put it with such senstitivity during the Hurley trial, that in the end the all white jury needed police more than the black fella?

The bailiff kept the jury away from the aboriginal and non-indigenous supporters when the jury went outside the court-house for meal breaks. At one of these time when Lex’s family were sitting within eyeshot of the jury the bailiff shepherded the jury away.

During the hours of deliberation, which lasted from 11:50 am on Thursday, 23 October till 9:30 pm on Friday, 24 October, especially at the end, it was clear that someone was holding out.  At 5:30pm on Friday the jury told the judge via a note that they would only be another half an hour. However by 9 pm they were still saying the same thing. When the jury foreman was asked by the judge he look up to his right and behind him where two women sat. Were they the ones holding out? We may never know. Whatever happened it only took another half hour or so and it was all over. What resistance there was had gone. It is almost as if the jury had gone out the back to somewhere in Alabama in the 1950s to come to its verdict.

But how can people be resigned to a death in custody?

Lex Wotton’s Demands
Lex Wotton had three modest demands in the week after the death of Mulrunji.

  1. Hurley should be charged
  2. Hurley should be removed from the island immediately
  3. An independent investigation should be undertaken by the Criminal Misconduct Commission (CMC)

How can people be resigned to police brutality and lies, to court indifference, to a jury’s ignorance, to a state led by self interest and exploitation?

As Lex Wotton said on the day the autopsy report claimed Mulrunji’s death was an accident “Come on people we can’t accept this.”

Sentencing
Lex Wotton will be sentenced in Townsville on 7th November 2008. The sentence is likely to be harsh, five years perhaps with some of the period suspended to diffuse anger in the community with ‘liberal kindness’.

12 responses to “No Justice for Aboriginal people

  1. Rumpole at the magistrates court

    Granting the application, Mr MrGregor said: “We seem to have developed a habit of putting cases down for where the victim lives,” he said. “It’s not the victim who’s important, it’s the defendant, who has to get to court… see http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,26339189-953,00.html?referrer=email&source=CM_email_nl

    Like

  2. Hi all

    Just letting you know that – after an inspiring speech by Sam Watson at the recent Socialist Alliance national conference, a collection was taken for Lex and his family.

    $609.40 was collected, which has now been transferred into the Free Lex Wotton account.

    Here’s to Freedom for Lex, and justice for all family and friends of Mulrunji.

    “If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, you are a comrade of mine”

    Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

    Paul Benedek, Brisbane Activist Centre, 74b Wickham St, Fortitude Valley
    Ph: (07) 3831 2644 Mob: 0410 629 088 Email: paulb@greenleft.org.au

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  3. Palm Island becomes bureaucrat-free zone
    http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,24734689-5003402,00.html

    “A COMMUNITY has banned public servants from setting foot onto its island until it’s convinced the state government is listening to its concerns.

    Palm Island mayor Alf Lacey said his council had voted today to only allow essential workers such as nurses and police onto the island, off Townsville.”

    Like

  4. Unfair practice by Qld government and companies
    I suppose it comes as no surprise to the editor, working journalists and readers of the National Indigenous Times that Queensland government departments do not place much [if any] advertising in their paper despite its large indigenous readership in this state. A brief scan through ISSUE 166, November 13 of the NIT reveals that there is no Qld government advertising in that issue. Nor do you see any from the large mining companies or other large enterprises in that state.

    It would be too much to hope for the various Ministers in the Qld government and CEOs of large companies in Qld to explain why their departments/companies do not advertise in the NIT. I refer here to jobs adverts and public notices like mining leases so that indigenous people who read that paper can obtain such vital information, both for them and the departments/companies that need to communicate with indigenous people.

    Lex Wotton Appeal
    Previously I stated that I thought Lex Wotton should appeal his conviction and sentence.

    Regardless of what I say or do, the burden of an appeal would fall on Lex Wotton and his family and friends.

    It is not my place either to urge an appeal or advise against one.

    I was wrong to do so.

    I am sorry if I have created any confusion by my remarks previous.

    I withdraw them.

    See National Indigenous Times for “THE BIG READ: Unfinished business” ISSUE 166, November 13, 2008: If you think the Palm Island tragedy is over, think again writes CHRIS GRAHAM…

    Ian Curr
    18 Nov 2008

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  5. I remember that. That is Terrible!!!!!

    I saw about the original case about the policeman (Hurley) getting off on the television on 7.30 report or 4 corners. The police were obviously very corrupt and the court system supported them.

    I think Lex Wotton should appeal.

    It would embarrass Australia if he took it to the United Nations or whatever it is if he doesn’t get justice in Australia.

    Name Withheld [Email received by Workers BushTelegraph]

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  6. Free Lex Wotton
    Rally
    Saturday, 1 November 2008
    12 noon at Queens Park, Brisbane
    then March to Parliament

    Where does the violence done to Aboriginal people come from? From individual police like Hurley?

    From the police group mentality?

    From the police union?

    From police hierarchy?

    The Police Minister?

    The government?

    Or from the whole system?

    The system that uses violence to suppress community upset at death of Mulrunji, at loss of aboriginal control of indigenous affairs on Palm Island, loss of Land Rights through endless government bureaucracy and colonial mentality.

    The Lex Wotton jury had that mentality, for them it is better to feel safe under the protection of police, albeit corrupt, than to let blackfellas have some democratic rights.

    Jail the innocent and let the guilty go free could well be the jury and their government’s motto.

    Ian Curr

    Please note that the rally is organised by the Aboriginal Rights Coalition

    for more info call rob on 0424 265 730

    or Lauren on 0413 534 125

    See https://bushtelegraph.wordpress.com/2008/10/27/free-lex-wotton/

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  7. The Black and White of a Palm Island Tragedy

    The question the state of Queensland should be asking itself today is this: is Lex Wotton a danger to society?

    The answer is that if Queensland Police stop killing black men in custody, and trying to cover it up, then Lex Wotton is no threat to anyone.

    Not that it matters much. Late on Friday, Wotton was convicted of the offence of “rioting with destruction” following the November 2004 uprising on Palm Island. He is now in custody, awaiting sentencing on November 7 in Townsville District Court.

    The scale of this injustice is hard to comprehend, and even harder to describe. So I won’t even try. I’ll just stick to the facts — the black and white of the issue…

    by Chris Graham from the National Indigenous Time

    Read more at http://www.crikey.com.au/Politics/20081027-The-black-and-white-of-a-Palm-Island-tragedy-.html for analysis by National Indigenous Times editor, Chris Graham
    http://nit.com.au

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  8. There is a meeting tonight (Monday 27 October) at 6:30pm on the 2nd level of Trades Hall, Peel Street South Brisbane, to organise a demonstration in opposition to the jailing of Lex Wotton.

    Like

  9. Pingback: Lex Wotton - Guilty verdict « Oodgeroo of the tribe Noonuccal, Custodian of the land Minjerribah, Peace Prosperity and Healing, Sacred Treaty Circles

  10. Worklife members,

    the recent trial and conviction of Lex Wotton, from Palm Island, is not directly an issue that is related to the aims of Worklife. However the law under which he has been convicted has much wider ramifications, and is directly relevant to the ongoing struggles of working class people.

    Below is a letter from Don Wilson, who has been sitting in court during the trial. His observations on the conduct of the trial, and the basis on which the conviction has been made, are relevant to all of us!
    Ross Gwyther.
    ————————————————
    Lex Wotton has been convicted under the colonial era law of riotous destruction of property and faces a life sentence.

    This law is aimed at the working class and makes a joke of human rights or any of the other legal illusions that are draped over the reality of the dictatorship of the capitalist class. Lenin described bourgeoisie law as the ‘barbed-wire entanglements protecting the capitalist class’.

    Under this ‘law *any group of 3 people* or more can be DECLARED an UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY. This is regardless if the assembly was legal to begin with. It can be declared an unlawful assembly if anyone in the vicinity CONSIDERS there COULD BE a breach of the peace.

    If in the opinion of a JP or police officer there is ‘agitated movement accompanied by noise’ it becomes a tumultuous unlawful assembly or riot. If in the opinion of the police or JP or magistrate there is ANY destruction of property – fixed or mobile- there is ‘the riotous destruction of property’ and as everyone displays a common purpose by being in the declared unlawful assembly-any person in that group is guilty of riotous destruction of property -which is what Lex Wotton has been convicted of- and this applies regardless of whether he actually damaged any property or not.

    These laws which served the British empire are still on the books and will be used against the working class as the class struggle intensifies.

    For comrades interested in the laws invoked against Lex Wotton I have
    set the out below. They were used in the Mt Isa Lockout and many occasions since.

    CRIMINAL CODE 1899 – SECT 61
    61 Definitions (1) When 3 or more persons, with intent to carry out some common purpose, assemble in such a manner, or, being assembled, conduct themselves in such a manner, as to cause persons in the neighbourhood to fear on reasonable grounds that the persons so assembled will tumultuously disturb the peace, or will by such assembly needlessly and without any reasonable occasion provoke other persons tumultuously to disturb the peace, they are an unlawful assembly.
    (2) It is immaterial that the original assembling was lawful if, being assembled, they conduct themselves with a common purpose in such a manner as mentioned in subsection (1).
    (3) An assembly of 3 or more persons who assemble for the purpose of protecting the house of any 1 of them against persons threatening to break and enter the house in order to commit an indictable offence therein is not an unlawful assembly.
    (4) When an unlawful assembly has begun to act in so tumultuous a manner as to disturb the peace, the assembly is called a riot, and the persons assembled are said to be riotously assembled.
    – SECT 62 62 Punishment of unlawful assembly
    (1) Any person who takes part in an unlawful assembly is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for 1 year. (2) The offender may be, and it is hereby declared that the offender always was liable to be, arrested without warrant.
    – SECT 63 63 Punishment of riot
    (1) Any person who takes part in a riot is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for 3 years. (2) The offender may be, and it is hereby declared that the offender always was liable to be, arrested without warrant.
    – SECT 64 64 Rioters remaining after proclamation ordering them to disperse (1) Whenever any persons, to the number of 12 or more, are riotously assembled together, it is the duty of some 1 of the following persons, that is to say, the sheriff or under-sheriff or a justice of the peace, or, if the assembly is in a municipality, the mayor, to go amongst them, or as near as he or she can safely come to them, and to command or cause to be commanded with a loud voice that silence be kept while the proclamation next hereinafter mentioned is made, and then openly and with a loud voice to make proclamation, or cause proclamation to be made, in these words or to the like effect–
    Our Sovereign Lady the Queen charges and commands all persons here assembled immediately to disperse themselves and peaceably to depart to their habitations or to their lawful business, or they will be guilty of a crime, and will be liable to be imprisoned for life. God Save the Queen!
    (2) Any person who wilfully and knowingly, and by force, opposes, obstructs, or hurts, any person who goes to make, or begins to make, any such proclamation, and thereby prevents the proclamation from being made, is guilty of a crime.
    (3) Any persons who, being so assembled, continue together to the number of 12 or more, and do not disperse themselves within the space of an hour after the making of the proclamation, are guilty of a crime.
    (4) When the making of the proclamation is prevented, any persons who, being so assembled, and to whom the proclamation would or ought to have been made if the making thereof had not been so prevented, and who, knowing of such prevention, continue together to the number of 12 or more, and do not disperse themselves within the space of an hour after the time of such prevention, are guilty of a crime.
    (5) Any person who commits any of the crimes defined in this section is liable to imprisonment for life.
    (6) A prosecution for any of the crimes defined in this section must be begun within a year after the crime is committed.
    SECT 65 65 Rioters demolishing buildings etc. Any persons who, being riotously assembled together, unlawfully pull down or destroy, or begin to pull down or destroy– (a) any building whatever; or (b) any machinery whatever, whether fixed or moveable; or (c) any structure used in farming land, or in carrying on any trade or manufacture, or in conducting the business of a mine; or (d) any bridge, wagon-way, or trunk, for conveying materials from a mine; are guilty of a crime, and each of them is liable to imprisonment for life.

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