Rally: Free Lex Wotton!

Free Lex Wotton!

A Rally was held on 1 November 2008 in Brisbane.

Free Lex Wotton Rally Queens Park Brisbane (photo by Ted Riethmuller)

Free Lex Wotton Rally Queens Park Brisbane (photo by Ted Riethmuller)

Then a Rally was held on 7 November 2008 in Townsville, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, London, Santiago (Chile) and all around the world. Here are the Melbourne, Brisbane T’vlle, Palm Island and NZ Rallies (among others) —

To see photos of the rally in Brisbane see http://www.flickr.com/photos/lookingleft/sets/72157608567398108/

These are shot and compiled by Ted Riethmuller who, over the years, has provided a photographic account of Labour, Indigenous & Women’s struggles in Brisbane. See http://www.flickr.com/photos/brisbanelabourhistory/archives/

Ted’s LookingLeft series gives a great photographic record for socialists in struggle in Queensland.

A Vigil was held on 3 November 2008 at Police HQ in Brisbane.

Lionel Fogarty lookis on as Murri women speak out

When: Monday, 3 November 2008

Where: Qld Police HQ, Roma Street (Opposite Railway Station), Brisbane

Aim: This is to oppose the bravery awards given to police for their role in the Palm Island Affair on 26 November 2004.

(please sign the ‘Free Lex Wotton!’ Petition by clicking ‘here‘)

Violence done to aboriginal persons has been condoned by at least two juries now. Once in the Hurley Trial and now in the Lex Wotton trial.

Police came on to the island with high powered rifles, glock pistols, troop carriers, Tasers, to do violence against the community on Palm. They raid houses and arrest 23 people taking them off the island charging them without any evidence. Among them is Lex Wotton, his Mum is even charged. They manufacture the evidence with the aid of dope dealers and police informants. They threatened people with jail terms if they do not cooperate, they prey on the weak.

Sam Watson, Lex Wotton, Andrew Boe - Invasion Day 2007

They manufacture evidence through the media — shots of Lex with a shovel at the police station are sent around the world. Angry resident reads the caption in the newspaper. While police point guns at children, do not identify themselves, wearing balaclavas, to terrorise the community. They take Lex’s brother in law out in the nude. His niece, 15 year old girl, guns to the head. A women 7 months pregnant pushed to the ground, premature delivery, baby has trouble with the heart.

All police deny they saw the video except two who gave evidence in the committal, to concoct their evidence, 12,000 pages of evidence, 6,000 pages of other accused, 120 witnesses — but the police continue to lie. They scan the people in the court, even before they can go to the toilet. They charge Lex’s 64 year mother with throwing huge pieces of masonry. No evidence. Charges eventually beaten.

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? The community?

David Matters, Qld Bus and Tram Union

David Matters, Qld Bus and Tram Union

Or is it from the whole system?

The system that uses police 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.

Where are the institutions that have stood up and condemned this violence?

The District Court? The Crime and Misconduct Commission?

The parliament?

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commissions (HREOC), both State and Federal?

The United Nations Human Rights bodies?

The Lex Wotton jury had a mentality that, for them, it is better to feel safe under the protection of police, albeit corrupt, than to let blackfellas have the democratic right to protest the death of their brother Mulrunji.

Well may we say that it is business as usual in the sovereign state of Queensland.

Especially while governments and their institutions, judges and juries jail the innocent and let the guilty go free! Human Rights institutions, where are they? What have they done to prevent this? In Queensland, where justice is a game?

Ian Curr

October 2008

Please note that this rally is organised by the Aboriginal Rights Coalition — Click here to Download ‘Free Lex Wotton!’ Leaflet

for more info call Rob on 0424 265 730

or Lauren on 0413 534 125

or Sam Watson on 0401 2274 43

25 responses to “Rally: Free Lex Wotton!

  1. Pingback: Lex Wotten - aboriginal political prisoner « Ciaron’s Weblog

  2. Yo Ian,

    Little late for me to go the low profile route methinx. I’m slowly climbing the charts over here on the nazi redwatch list of “who to beat up if the opportunity arises”!”

    I’m presently coming in at No. 14 in the “assylum parasite” subsection on this nazi site. Pipped at the post by former Abu Ghraib interrogator Iraq combat veteran now Catholic Worker and all round good guy Joshua Casteel coming in at 13
    http://www.redwatch.org/ulster1.html

    General tips on writing to prisoners
    http://www.tridentploughshares.org/article1121

    I’m convinced from personal experience in hostile prison environments that letters or postcards from around the world to Lex will have a positive effect on morale and staff attitude.

    We have been coping with harassment state and other for 30 years that’s part of the price outlined in the scriptures for doing the gig. The only counter we have is a spirit of solidarity we can offer each other from our varied ideological, cultural and life story backgrounds.
    Prison and the legal system is designed to isolate, demoralise and defeat you … Lex needs to be hearing from us.

    The state completely failed in its claims if duty of care and protection of life at Palm Island with the pathologist whitewash. With the killing and pathologist whitewash. The cop shop on Palm had become Thunderdome where two go in and one comes out…and it was only going to be the uniforms walking out and the other carried out.

    The state had the opportunity to seriously address this death and chose not to, chose to cover up, jail Lex and (Hurley) will probably kill again in similar circumstance. No wonder locals perceived the cop shop, following the pathologist whitewash, as a threat to life.

    Like

  3. Worrying shadow over police service

    Editorial, November 12, 2008 11:00

    CRIME and Misconduct Commission chairman Robert Needham says in his annual report that a level of maturity in the public sector means more complaints can now be referred to internal misconduct units.

    The CMC would still investigate more serious or systemic matters. The timing of his report being tabled in State Parliament is unfortunate; one body, in particular, which shows questionable maturity in self-policing is the Queensland Police Service itself. No better example is needed than the yet-unfinished saga following the unfortunate and unnecessary death in custody of Mulrunji on Palm Island in November four years ago – more than 1400 days ago.

    Two men went into a watchhouse cell. One died. After the intervention of the state Attorney-General, the other man, Sen-Sgt Chris Hurley, was charged – the first time in Australia a police officer was charged over a death in custody – and he was acquitted by a jury. Lex Wotton, the leader of a riot on Palm Island days later – after the public release of a post-mortem examination on the body of Mulrunji – also was charged, and recently found guilty and sentenced to a jail term. In each case, where the matter has been placed before a jury, justice has taken its course. On Palm Island, Aboriginal leaders have declared that now is a time for healing; for black and white to come together and learn to move on.

    But one important issue remains in limbo after all of this time. That is the long-running inquiry headed by the CMC into the initial police investigation of Mulrunji’s death. In a scathing report more than two years ago, deputy coroner Christine Clements found it lacked transparency, objectivity and independence. Sen-Sgt Hurley, the police officer at the centre of the incident, met the investigators at the airport; one was a friend. In the evening, they shared a meal and beer at his home over off-the-record talks.

    Only days before Wotton was due to be sentenced this month, both of the officers who dined with Sen-Sgt Hurley were among police honoured with bravery awards arising from the event. Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson defended the timing but the service demonstrated its lack of sensitivity early in 2005, before the coronial inquiry was completed, by preparing the paperwork for the medals. When the awards were presented this month, Mr Atkinson maintained they did not prejudge the long-awaited internal inquiry. “They are two separate issues,” he said. Be that as it may, the fact police gave priority to organising medals over the completion of a critical internal examination clearly raises questions about the service being charged with responsibility for policing itself.

    Mulrunji’s death is probably the worst example this decade of something going terribly wrong with policing. It happened in our most troubled community. Deep-rooted issues of social justice, health, housing, education and jobs on Palm Island need to be addressed and so do the many policing issues identified by Ms Clements in her report. Despite complex criminal trials having reached their conclusions, the outstanding issue from the watchhouse death is the completion of an investigation into the investigators. This is a source of grave disquiet.

    NB:

    Clements found that Snr Sgt Chris Hurley angrily punched the man a number of times while he was still on the floor and “that these actions of Hurley caused the fatal injuries.” She noted that his “liver was virtually completely ruptured … cleaved in two”. His cries for help as he lay dying on the cement floor were either unheard or ignored by police in the station. Clements also found that this man (referred to as Mulrunji in the proceedings) should never have been arrested, and severely criticised the entire police investigation. She added that “clear directives from the Police Commissioner and a commitment to ensure proper standards of investigation are required to restore public confidence.” She was referring to the palpable lack of interest and obstructiveness of some senior police called to give evidence at the inquest.

    — Andrew Boe at http://www.safecom.org.au/palm-island-inquest.htm

    Needless to say, the findings of the coroner were never placed before either the Hurley Jury (that acquitted him of manslaughter) nor were they placed before the Lex Wotton jury that convicted him of Riot with destruction. — Ian Curr who sat through the Lex Wotton trial.

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    • Police Target Lex Wotton Benefit Gig

      On Saturday night 21st of March two arrests were made following police harassment of a Palm Island Indigenous man leaving a benefit gig held to support Lex Wotton’s family. Lex Wotton is currently serving a six year jail sentence for his part in a community protest in response to the cover-up of the death in custody of fellow Palm Island resident Mulrunji Doomadgee in November 2004.

      The gig was an alcohol free all ages live music event held as part of regular Saturday night activities at Blackstar Coffee Roastery in West End, none of which previously had attracted any police interest.


      “From the start of the benefit gig, which included performances about black deaths in custody, uniformed police in unmarked cars patrolled the street, driving past at least five times before stationing two police cars and a police wagon at the end of the street. Despite no incidents at the event the police clearly expected to make arrests” said Robert Nicholas, one of the organisers from the Aboriginal Rights Coalition.

      An Indigenous man from Palm Island who had attended the event was walking home when he was stopped at the end of the street by ten police officers who questioned why he was at the event. Several concerned people walked up the street and asked police why they were not letting the man go home, to which they replied that he needed an ‘escort’.

      “We told them that one of us would walk home with him, and that he didn’t require a police escort or presence. At this point they started becoming very agitated and calling us ‘ignorant left-wingers’. The harassment was clearly politically motivated and meant to intimidate” said David Stone, one of the arrestees.

      After further questioning the man was allowed to walk home. Our small group then attempted to go back to the gig but Owain Jones was stopped and police said they wanted to search him because his ‘backpack smelt like cannabis’.

      When he objected police threatened to take him to the police station. When asked why he was being searched police told us ‘walk away or be arrested’. Another man, David Stone, repeated the question and was grabbed by two police and arrested. When we protested that we hadn’t done anything wrong four police then wrestled an unresisting Owain Jones to the ground and violently held his arms behind his back.

      It was only when a cameraman taping the Benefit Gig arrived to take footage of these two unprovoked arrests that one police officer yelled ‘camera, camera!’ and the other officers restraining the men stopped and escorted them inside the police wagon. A police search at the watchouse revealed nothing illegal on either person.

      Both were charged with ‘obstruction’ which they will be challenging in court.

      These actions on behalf of Queensland police show the extreme abuse of the amended ‘police ‘move-on powers’ which allow police to enforce search directions and use ‘move-on’ directions to avoid scrutiny by the public. Their violent and antagonistic behaviour prior to there being a camera present demonstrate the lack of accountability for acts of intimidation based on the political motivations of some officers.

      Witnesses and arrestees will be filing complaints regarding the harassment and abuse of police ‘move-on’ powers with the CMC.

      Contact:
      Lauren Mellor (Aboriginal Rights Coalition) 0413 534 125
      Thomas Day (Event Organiser, Blackstar Coffee) 0423 412 171

      Like

  4. Thanks Ciaron,

    The Deep North begins way south of Townsville.

    It was the Arthur Gorrie prison in Wacol, Brisbane that refused to give Lex Wotton the Nelson Mandela book.

    The book was taken into that prison by David Matters who is the general secretary of the Bus and Tram union in Queensland.

    David said the Arthur Gorrie prison authorities refused to give Lex the book in a speech outside the courthouse in T’vlle as we all waited to hear the judge’s sentence.

    Ian Curr
    Nov 2008

    Like

  5. 1) Free Lex Wotton International day of action November 7th 2008 (Images/Music Clip 3mins .42 secs)
    http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHxMxxDqB30

    2) Ciaron O’Reilly — Article on the Lex Wotton case
    http://www.indymedia.ie/article/89726

    3) Write a Letter or send a postcard to Lex Wotton

    I’m convinced from personal experience in hostile prison environments that letters or postcards from around the world to Lex will have a positive effect on morale and staff attitude.

    A simple postcard will suffice. A recent book on Nelson Mandella posted to Lex was refused by prison authorities, so they don’t sound too progressive up there in Townsville – a military town with a reputation for racism (recently a group photo of diggers in Ku Klux Klan outfits with aboriginal soldiers seated in the front row made the mainstream media!)

    So as the case in all prisons your correspondence will be read by prison staff, so don’t write anything that could further endanger Lex.

    * Note the correct spelling of his name when addressing the correspondence…

    Lex Wotton
    (prisoner)
    Townsville Correctional Centre
    PO Box 5574 ,
    Townsville
    Qld 4810
    AUSTRALIA

    4) General tips on writing to prisoners from the Trident Ploughshares website http://www.tridentploughshares.org/article1121

    Like

  6. Hello Ciaron,

    I rang the T’vlle prison on the number you give above.

    They said that you can write to him at the postal address you have given.

    As you know all mail will be scrutinised thoroughly and possibly censored. Inadvertently you may bring Lex more grief by writing to him through guilt by association. For background on the Prison see https://bushtelegraph.wordpress.com/2008/11/11/lex-wottons-future-home/

    Your letter may bring the Queensland law down on you and yours as well.

    Remember we are dealing with the most reactionary Labor government here where they give coppers medals for killing blackfellas.

    Also I got a call from a crazy person late last night.

    Be aware also that racist groups monitor Workers BushTelegraph.

    in solidarity
    ian

    Like

  7. Yo
    Is this Lex present postal address?
    c/-Townsville Correctional centre
    PO Box 5574 MSO,
    Townsville
    Qld 4810
    AUSTRALIA

    Like

  8. John,

    Alf Lacey clearly expects something from Bligh as do the many Murri families who have suffered loss through death in custody. I hope they get what they want, but I am pessimistic.

    I assume people give me the petitions because they want them published. At least that is what I have clearly done, publish the petitions. If you think they are lame, that is your prerogative.

    I still do not understand why you think there is a Radical Left in Brisbane? At least one of any significance?

    What is the manifesto of this Radical Left you speak so much about? How do they organise? Who are they? If you say they are the Socialist Alliance, do you know how severely that organisation has been gutted by the latest split? I do not know but suspect the Green Left Weekly is funded by private wealth. If that is true, that means its finance does not come from workers or socialists, so it can not claim to be a workers political organisation.

    Have you not yet realised that when you (and the others like Ciaron and Jim who gathered together in his name) came along in the late 1970s or early 1980s, that was the end, not the beginning of a strong social movement (a working class or a socialist movement)?

    The expectation and desire for change had been dashed, in Hungary in 1956, after the The Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia in 1968, and finally in the Soviet Union itself in 1991. The Left in Australia has not recovered since that time.

    Have you read the LeftPress Book “After the Waterfront — the workers are quiet“?

    After the Waterfront — the workers are quiet” is being launched at Zapata’s bookshop (26 Horan Street, West End) this Friday, 14th November at 6 pm. You and others are welcome to come and speak to the issues raised in the book. It is available online at http://wpos.wordpress.com/

    in solidarity
    Ian

    Like

  9. Ian,

    My comments are to you because this is your blog and it has the petition on it. Also because you have replied to my comments.

    I assumed because everyone is passing the petition to you that you have some role in it, but perhaps i have misunderstood.

    I simply hope that you and your readers may consider the issues I raise.

    Unfortunately, I do understand a fair bit about deaths in custody . This is the main cause of my frustration that the radical left has failed to be relevant to the issues.

    I have re-read the petition and the poetry does not change my perception of it.

    But it is nice that people have the opportunity to express themselves .

    Like

  10. Hello John,

    You have directed your questions to (no, ‘at’) me, why?

    Who am I to answer your questions? Why do you say I am the coordinator of the petitions?

    If you wish to know about the petitions and what they really mean why don’t you read what they say? A little hint. There are more than one petition. There are more than one set of words.

    Read the words carefully, read who the petitioners are (both principal petitioners and others).

    Then read what the petitioners have said!

    I will even help you.

    I heard one petitioner recite these words outside the courthouse in Townsville on the morning that Lex Wotton was sentenced:

    “Where is the Justice? Blackfella still lookin!”

    He was just singin a song
    Nearby, stood a cop
    Big burly and strong

    Mulrunji’s time in that cell
    Not very long
    He died an agonising death on that cold cell floor
    Not long after being manhandled through the door

    His family were misled into thinking he was OK
    Little did they realise
    His life was already murderously taken that day

    Hurley was cooked and served dinner
    Buy his copper mate
    The same ol buddy
    There to investigate!

    They charged that copper Hurley
    We thought Justice at last! You see
    But with an all white jury
    They found him NOT GUILTY!

    They charged the brave warriorsd for torchin the police station
    Now Lex Wotton is lookin at time in jail
    Where is the justification?

    In flew more police in riot gear and guns
    Knockin down doors at dawn
    Terrifying kids and mums

    With guns held to their heads
    They cowered on the floor
    Others shaking with terror whilst bein dragged out the door

    The media and police
    Took the focus away
    From a black death in custody that day

    Lex Wotton gets time in jail
    Whille a killer cop goes free
    The black man starves for Justice
    The hunger never ends
    Yet for the men in blue
    It is they that whiteman law defends.

    Marcella Walsh

    Ask yourself about other blackfella and whitefella Hurley has killed?

    Go back to 1995, ask people who were in the Cape York community of Kowanyama, ask what happened there??

    Has Hurley killed before? Whom does Hurley hurt? Is it woman, is it man?

    In 1998, in Surfer’s Paradise, what did Hurley do?

    Was that whitefella death he was involved in? Was it an accident?

    We know he’d been the subject of formal complaints of sexual harassment from female police officers.

    In true style, the Crime and Misconduct Commission declared both unsubstantiated, just like Barbara Pilot never had her foot run over by Hurley! Even the doctor on Palm could not hide that. But Robo did.

    How can we trust any institution, cop, doctor, journo, lawyer, judge, minister, premier, taxman, accountant, professional, clerk or jury that investigates Chris Hurley, given their track record on this injustice? Given their racism!

    Ask yourself about the evil spirit that lay in the Palm watchouse? Ask why the coppers did not leave, even though they were begged to. Ask yourself about your judeao christian background. Why do they value property over life? Surely that jailhouse had to be burnt down? With a death in custody inside?

    I will give you a start on the Judeao Christian front. Why aren’t you asking the head of the CMC, Bob Needham, questions?

    CRIME and Misconduct Commission chairman Robert Needham says in his annual report that a level of maturity in the public sector means more complaints can now be referred to internal misconduct units [of the police department].

    Needham thinks the CMC need not police the police because they are mature and capable of self investigation. And to think the CMC came out of Fitzgerald!
    What happened at Kowanyama? What has Needham done? [You are only onedegree of separation from Bob Needham, did you know? He is a close friend of your [once was] friend and comrade.

    Why did they move Hurley to new posting? When they knew all along, more harm, more grief. They only had to read their own reports.

    Why don’t you ask Chloe Hooper?” Haven’t you read “The Tall Man”? What don’t you understand?

    Then read what Gracelyn Smallwood and Florence Onus are saying? Read their Press Releases. Listen to what Sam Watson has said.

    The ask yourself this, why do you keep barkin’ at this whitefella’s door?
    Do you own a stereo? Do you own a keyboard? Are you stereo typer?

    Ian Curr

    Like

  11. Ian,

    If indigenous groups such as MPCC are handing the petitions to you, what are you going to do with them?

    Are they going to be passed on to the parliament as is implied in the petition itself?

    What is the hoped for consequence of this action?

    If indeed indigenous people initiated this petition then my questions apply equally to them as they do to the petitioners. Who benefits from such a campaign? Aboriginal people or the guilty consciences of white Australia as with the reconciliation petitions and bridge walks?

    Non-Aboriginal people need to be mobilised around Aboriginal agendas, not the illusions of white democracy.

    However, The inability of non-Aboriginal radicals to engage meaningfully with Aboriginal agendas, to not raise above slogan or petition conciousness, should not be blamed on Aboriginal leaderships.

    If you cannot explain how the project you appear to be co-ordinating fits into a strategy for change then perhaps such sycophantic ignorance is part of the problem and not the solution. It serves simply to reinforce the myth that the white state could give a fuck, as do the various ANTAR and Reconciliation Australia campaigns.

    The only thing power respects is power. Unless there is an inherent empowerment of the structures of Aboriginal society on their own terms and in their own contexts, then protests, petitions and other assorted whinging is just adding weight to the confusions of white society and achieves nothing for Aboriginal australia, they are only the backdrop for the proselytising of white organisations.

    There is great power and momentum in Queensland and Australia at the moment as a result of the backlash to the 2004 death in custody. This power and momentum was not created by socialists or white liberals carrying on their usual modus operandi, it was caused by the shit hitting the fan on Palm Island and the police compound being raized to the ground.

    This alone has thrown the Palm death into the spotlight. The many deaths in custody that have occured around the country since then have been ignored.

    To subvert this actual and potential momentum into a lame call for an inquiry by way of petition is a betrayal and sabotage of what has occured.

    Alf Lacey, the Mayor of Palm Island has the full weight of the history of Palm Island including the fire behind him when he offers an olive branch to Bligh, not because he has sold out but because he has real power in the negotiations.

    The political left could be very relevant and powerful if it were to support the agenda of Palm Island, especially as the election approaches, especially in Bligh’s seat which could well go to the Greens. (To date Bligh has only been targeted to oppose the Cape York trial which the Cape York communities fought hard to put in place) But in order to sipport a Palm Island agenda, the radical activists would have to establish a relationship with the political leadership of Palm Island which it has failed to do in the last 4 years of campaigning about Palm Island issues. The Socialist alliance got one single vote on Palm in the last federal election.

    There are real connections between a Brisbane Aboriginal leadership and the white left that have been built, but they exist totally within the framework and agenda of the white left, not the various tribal groups and organisations of the Aboriginal community. Most importantly they have only focused on other places, Palm Island and the N.T. and failed to address the very same issues of police racism, brutality, deaths in custody, fastracking to jail as well as all the other issues like poverty and health and land rights – in our own community under our own nose. Why? is it all just a head trip, a phoney notion of solidarity from a distance?.

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  12. Hello John,

    The answer to your question(s) lies with the indigenous people who organised the petition(s) and their supporters who signed it.

    in solidarity
    Ian

    Like

  13. What is going to happen with the petition now?

    Is it just for the edification of the the signatories and BT readers? or will it be quickly read to an empty chamber of parliament with all the other petitions?

    The 3 demands – raise money for lawyers
    – call for another enquiry

    – pardon the convicted, the only demand of direct relevance to Aboriginal people.

    Can, at some stage, the momentum of this petition be directed towards a real political agenda including specific demands for real things relevant to deaths in custody, Palm Island or anything else? If so, how and what?

    Like

  14. Ian,

    I agree with your challenges to McDougal’s reccomendations. McDougal was writing a report for the premiers department so his reccomendations are aimed at what the government could or should do.

    However, McDougal was also working for the palm Island council. The information in his report as to the nature of the problems is a reflection of what the council told him and it was authorised by the council.

    Perhaps we should consider background information from the horses mouth even if it does also contain a framework for a state response?

    As far as I am aware, McDougal’s report and our housing report are the only overviews of the situation on Palm Island presently available. If you know of another I would be most interested to see what it is.

    As for the details of the fire. The police have obviously cooked up a sensational lie to go into court with. From the video evidence there was clearly no riot.

    However, we should not belittle what did happen. As a response to the coroners white wash, person or persons unknown in the company of hundreds of people did indeed burn down the police station, court house and police barracks,

    I would hope that your insistance that there was no riot is simply a matter of semantics rather than a denial of the real and overwhelming desperation and the intense seriousness of the response on the day.

    The mob were quite disciplined, but the damage was done and it was no accident. We should be supportive of what they did rather than trying to deny that it happened or proclaim that it wasn’t really that serious.

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  15. Challenging Assumptions on the Lex Wotton trial

    Hello John,

    I assume that you read the McDougal report that you suggest we read?

    In the paper “Palm Island Housing Report” you refer to above: “We strongly recommend reading the McDougal report as background to this report.”

    What credibility does the McDougal report have when it states:

    “Indeed, given the wealth of experience gleaned from her previous portfolio [as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs], the Minister for Police [Judy Spence] should be ideally placed to provide the direction and impetus required to deliver improvements in the relationship between the QPS and Queensland’s indigenous communities.”

    What the report should have said was:

    “Is there any other minister (state or federal) less likely to improve relations with Indigenous communities as Judy Spence”?

    I strongly suggest you revisit your own report for it tends to confirm prejudice and misinformation about what happened on Palm Island after Mulrunji was killed by the now Inspector Hurley. You state inter alia in your own report:

    “The death in custody of local man Mulrunji Doomadgee sparked the riots, with police invoking a state of emergency after the police station, barracks and courthouse were set alight by a vocal group of angry residents.”

    Firstly, none of the video footage available from police [video camera turned on at 11.06 26 Nov 2004 and turned off for the last time at 17:15 26 Nov 2004], media cameraman or local residents amateur [and best footage] — none showed a ‘riot’, at least not in the sense that I understand a riot to be.

    Let me explain what I mean. There has been widespread misunderstanding of the trial and the significance of evidence and submissions made and rulings given.

    The court system actively perpetuates myth and misunderstanding with the use of arcane institutional procedures and a generally closed attitude to scrutiny from the outside. At the sentencing hearing in Townsville District Court, the judge Michael Shanahan, took steps two weeks before the hearing to close the court to members of the public other than a few family members, character witnesses, lawyers and media. In the washup even a section of the media was excluded. People are not aware that this device is used relatively frequently.

    The court use of control and misinformation helps retain its position in the state apparatus especially in political trials like that of Lex Wotton.

    One result of misinformation was the generally held belief by supporters of Lex Wotton that he could get life imprisonment for the crime of ‘riot with destruction’. This was technically not possible; even though, nominally at least, the maximum sentence for riot with destruction is life. Not the least of which because the crown was seeking ten years imprisonment and this itself was in the nature of ‘an ambit claim’ given the general sympathy and support for Lex Wotton and the moral and political justification ion for his actions. Even senior university academics thought a long term of imprisonment was probable. However sentencing is a formulaic process that commentators interviewed on the media failed to address much less understand.

    I wish to challenge myths of this political trial that have been accepted by pundits and supporters alike.

    I challenge that there was a riot on Palm Island in either a legal or real sense of the term. I say this because:

    1. Based on evidence given in court, no one (on the police side) received any injuries of significance – a policeman said that he sustained a bruise beneath his gun belt that lasted three months.

    2. No one has been convicted of ‘burning down’ or ‘setting alight to’ the police station or Hurley’s house for that matter.

    3. As to who set alight to the police station there is no conclusive or objective intelligence.

    Palm resident, Terrence Kidner, denied that he set alight to anything, he denied in his statement given to police on the day following, he denied in a later statement, he denied it in evidence in chief, he denied it in cross examination, he denied it in re-examination in the witness box in Lex Wotton’s trial.

    This was despite claims by Lex Wotton’s legal team that he was too simple ‘to give coherent evidence’. Terrence Kidner was convicted and sentenced for 4 years jail for his part in the events of 26 Nov 2004 [whatever they were we will never know because he automatically pleaded guilty on becoming police informant].

    Kidner’s sentence was reduced to 18 months on the promise that he would give evidence incriminating Lex Wotton. To the day he gave evidence against Lex Wotton, Kidner believed that if he did not he would be sent back to jail. Yet his evidence was both damning and uncontradicted in its important elements by the defence legal team with all their superior intelligence, knowledge of the law and grasp of the english language.

    The defence should have probed more how Kidner was primed by Sgt Robinson and another Palm Island Resident to give evidence against Lex Wotton. They did not even call as a hostile witness the woman who assisted Kidner in framing Lex Wotton.

    On the other side, the prosecution would call an aboriginal witness, have them declared hostile by the judge so that could use more threatening cross examination techniques.

    It was this evidence by Kidner and the media image of Lex Wotton with the shovel that led to Lex’s conviction.

    4. Having reviewed all the evidence in the three week Lex Wotton trial, where I was physically present every day except the first (given over mainly to legal argument) and one other, I have yet to see any objective evidence of a riot. Sure there was damage to buildings on Palm, there was some rocking although not in the intensity claimed by police, (but that happens every day on Palm) there were some minor injuries sustained on the police side, there was no riot, there was no uprising, there was grief and upset. There were police standing in the crowd, with the crowd during the period they claim the riot reached its peak. There was a wedge of armed police that walked from the police station to the hospital.

    5. People were upset at the death of their brother (used in Murri way).

    6. Revisit the footage of the Cronulla Riots and tell me what happened on Palm was a riot. The Cronulla riot was organised and premeditated over a period of days or even weeks. Compare this with what happened on 26 Nov on Palm.

    The alleged Palm rioters (including those who were acquitted) came upon the scene by chance, Lex Wotton because he had left his cars keys behind and someone asked him to fix a pipe.

    Another accused, Lance Poynter, took no part in any of the events after the death of Cameron Doomadgee, in the week leading up to 26 Nov 2004. Lance Poynter just happened upon the meeting in the mall on 26 November 2004. He had taken no part in the meetings of the Palm council on 22 November 2004, he took no part in the negotiations with police on the Wednesday (24 Nov) had nothing to do with any planning or common purpose as alleged by the crown. The jury in his trial found that the crown had failed to make out its case for riot against lance Poynter and his co-accused ‘rioters’.

    So where is any objective proof of riot — even riot in the nebulous legal sense — save for the political charge and conviction of the alleged leader Lex Wotton?

    7. Someone tell me with straight face that the surfers at Cronulla had as much justification as the Palm Island and have still as good a reason to be upset. There was not only the loss of life of Cameron Doomadgee, there were four lives lost as a result of Sgt Hurley’s actions. Cameron’s son, mother, and Patrick Bramwell all died as a rsult of Hurley killing Mulrunji. Also Hurley ran over Barbara Pilot ‘s foot. Medical evidence showed that there was bone sticking through skin. What brave policeman or woman sustained even the level of injury suffered by Barbara Pilot?

    Claims of riot was never questioned by the defence in the Lex Wotton trial, one of many mistakes they made. The defence team did not raise the important difficulty of reliance in court of what is a different and often foreign language (English). The language or of Bwgcolman people has differnet meaning even though the words are ostensibly English words they possess a different menaing [consider the aboriginal word ‘deadly’ and compare it with the meaning of the same English word. Couple that with the giving evidence in a white court by the seven (7) indigenous witnesses — the schizophrenic existence forced on them — to live in a white world and at the same time to live their own social existence in blackfella way.

    Where were our great legal intellectuals at the bar table that they did not give anything but glib and superficial reference to these matters. How many times did we witness the lawyers on both sides of the bar table express dismay at not understanding the words of Terrence Kidner. Not even the meaning of the words, but an accurate hearing of the words that he uttered in the witness box.

    Please save us from pronouncements of another lawyer, the director of the caxton legal service, Scott McDougal on matters of infrastructure and housing.

    Lex Wotton has more practical understanding than any lawyer, alas it is not likely we will ever see him use that practical knowledge to help his people. He is under the control of the prison, court and police for the next six years and probably beyond.

    Let us exclaim as one: Oh upright judge! Oh righteous and knowledgeable counsel! Such objective media reporting. Such powerful intelligence shown by the academic researchers and commentators! Such honest and fearless evidence given by ‘our’ police officers! Such cultural sensitivity by the minister and her advisers!

    Ian Curr
    November 2008

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  16. Rightio,

    Greetings fromm Belfast, the hometown of many a death in a custody, state murders, racist death squads backed by state forces and burnt down police stations (go see Steve McQueen’s recent movie “Hunger” to come up to speed)

    What’s Lex presnt postal address?

    We need to get that circulated worldwide asap.

    From my personal experience Australian/U.S./British prisons have a large staff contingent of ex-military personel. Such people didn’t seem to take kindly to someone convicted of damaging military equipment and I assume they aren’t going to take kindly to someone convicted of damage to a police station and vehicle.

    There will be constant provocation and humiliation of Lex by staff with such disposition. In most of my jail experiences I didn’t take to such humiliation and provacation too well and had many a disciplinary hearing. The risk here is that you lose your “good time”. The possible 2 years being predicted on this thread will become the 6 as decided bythe sentencing judge.

    One of the means of countering this and saving four years is to flood the Lex and the jail postal offices with letters (postcards will suffice) from around Queensland, Australia and the world!

    In my jail experience as soon as those letters and cards come in the environment will become safer for Lex. The staff will back off knowing he has reach, and ongoing support, on the outside. The government may make sure that nothing untoward happens to him….in an institution where a lot can happen to you with not many questions being asked.

    So what’s the psotal address?????
    …………………and let’s get it circulating.

    Also a short synopsis of Palm Island, it’s history, living conditions etc will be helpful to internationals who don’t know the place.

    in solidarity
    Ciaron O’Reilly

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  17. moral outrage vs structural change

    Between 2004 and 2006 myself and my partner, who has family on Palm Island, worked closely with the then mayor of Palm Is, Erykah Kyle and the Greens on housing issues on Palm Island. I also had a bit to do with the Mens business group on the times we spent on Palm.

    This time was after the death in custody and fire and I was particularly curious about the local attitude to it while I was there.

    For a start, I was surprised that people did not hate Chris Hurley. Prior to the death he had a very good relationship with the community and was very close to a number of the Christian elders on the Island.

    It is interesting that Murrundoo Yanner had spoken well of Hurley during his time at Doomadgee.

    The Palm Mens Group was not that concerned about pursuing Hurley, although there was nobody who thought he should not be charged. Their main concern was instituting a program to keep Murries out of the hands of the police through a community patrol, diversionary centre and a Murri-Watch for those who did end up in police custody. Their priority was Palm Island, not Hurley.

    Lex’s court case as well as the 24 others was nothing special. This is just what happens to murries on Palm Island all the time.

    Every man in the mens group had done prison time. The 2004 death in custody was not the first on the Island. The problems were certainly not specific to this one incident but, in the opinion of the mens group, was a structural problem. It was the structure and process of policing on the Island that needed to change.

    Non-Aboriginal activists should not assume that the way they see issues is the same as how Aboriginal people see them. There has been a recent conflict between the Wilderness society and Cape York Elders over the issue of world heritage listing of parts of Cape York. The Wilderness Society say they are acting in the interests of traditional owners yet the traditional owners were so opposed to it they had organised a delegation to go to Geneva,to oppose the heritage listing. This comes after a similar conflict between the same parties over wild rivers legislation which saw Aboriginal pickets of Wilderness society functions in Brisbane and Sydney.

    The Wilderness Society say they are working in conjunction with Murries, they even have a staff person focused on Indigenous issues. Yet the basic difference in conceptual frameworks of the white environmentalists and the traditional owners has lead to nothing positve and, in terms of both the environment and Aboriginal rights, has caused a weakening and diminishing of a potentially powerfull alliance between the two.

    The Aboriginal Rights Coalition, like the Wilderness Society, as a mechanism for consultation with Murries but they operate within a word-view and political agenda of white Australia and white consciousness.

    The disasters of the Gurindji/equal wage campaign were a direct result of the same difference between black and white perspective, the Gurindji saw themselves as land owners but the unions and CPA saw them as workers. For all the high socialist ideals of the equal pay campaign the result was the mass disposession of Aboriginal people from their land.

    The ARC has not learnt these lessons and is replicating the same dysfunctional, genocidal framework today in its sloganistic responses to the N.T. intervention – framing it as a racial discrimination issue rather than one of land rights and self determination, and the recent campaign about Mulrunji and then Lex Woton’s trial – framing it as a matter of due legal process and individual solidarity rather than structural change.

    There is a Queensland election coming up. The Mayor of Palm Island has extended an olive branch to Anna Bligh and invited her to Palm Is.

    Now is the time to be demanding structural reform in Aboriginal communities, especially making these demands from Bligh’s (and Rudds) electoral base – Brisbane.

    But if the ARC and other non-Aboriginal supporters just regurgitate slogans about Lex Wotton or the N.T. intervention – as per the ARC program in the next few months – then the opportunity for meaningfull political action in support of Aboriginal agendas will be lost.

    It is all too easy to raise slogans about Palm Island and the N.T. However, with the exception of blanket welfare quarantining, all the issues apply to Brisbane (or Melbourne, Sydney etc.) every bit as much as to these far away places. The obsessive focus on other places is the denial and neglect of the struggle under our own noses. The obsessive focus on slogans and moral outrage is a denial and neglect of the real agenda of structural change.

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  18. p.s. Ciaron,

    Thank you for the promotion from someone who does nothing to someone involved in “grand political or funding projects” but I suspect you still have no clue as to what I do.

    The following links give the details of a couple of the grand projects I am involved in. Perhaps you can drum up some international support?

    “The Agenda”
    http://treatynow.wordpress.com/the-agenda/

    C.H.E.P.
    http://treatynow.wordpress.com/cultural-heritage-education-program-chep/

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  19. Ciaron,

    I have no doubt Lex will be gratefull for some letters.

    However,

    There is apparently not going to be an appeal, Lex’s lawyer praised the sentencing judge for having the wisdom of Solomon and the Palm Island and Townsville Murries have been saying all week it is time for the matter to finish.

    Lex’ mother, partner and Townsville leader Gracelynne Smallwood were all quite definite on that in the news tonight.

    I said earlier (another thread) that their had been about 6 jailings from the so-called riot, I was wrong, there were 24 – a significant number in a close knit community. As much as we want to incorporate Lex into our various political mechanisms, the simple fact is the Palm Islanders are dealing with the situation in their own ways and, while they may feel blessed to be given suggestions by you, I suspect they have their own plans as to how they might maintain their connection with Lex.

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  20. The sentencing of Lex is about a lot of things…aboriginal history and present, deaths in custody (and of collusion), now it’s about prison. You’d want to broaden the support for Lex and family as much as possible at this point rather than hijack his (and family’s suffering) for whatever grand political or funding projects John has in mind at this present time.

    I’ve spent two years in prison in a variety of jurisdictions and I’ve spent decades supporting political prisoners. There are other folks presently based in Queenland with similalr experiences. You’d want to pool that knowlege and be inclusive asap..the more solidarity Lex and family get, the more bearable the next few years are going to be.

    There are other fronts, ofcourse, like the broader vaguer things and agendas John usually suggests at these times and of course there is a legal strategy I assume is underway. Good to keep the lines of communications open between them so they don’t obstruct each other.

    In terms of building support for the imprisoned man and deprived (of their loved one) family there are practical things to do. On the ferry to Belfast so will get back to ya with some suggestions, I’m sure there are good folks at home who have their own.

    As proven with the original incident on Palm, prison in Queenalsnd is a weird place, shit hapopens. I wouldn’t assume he’s only going to do 2! Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

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  21. Sorry, this is the article of Ian’s I was refering to (civil liberties context), not the one above.

    https://bushtelegraph.wordpress.com/2008/10/24/come-on-people-we-cant-accept-this/

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  22. O.K. What now?

    Lex has a six year sentence with at least 2 years in gaol. Yesterday several murries were similarly railroaded into gaol based on corrupt racist police evidence, Monday there will be more, and the day after that and the day after that and the day after that.

    I in no way belittle the courageous resistance of Lex, in 2004 and his court case.

    But what really is Lex’s struggle? Is it civil liberties and the right to protest as Ian has contextualised his conviction in the above article?

    No! It was not about civil liberties. It was about deaths in custody, the people of Palm Island and all Aboriginal people. Lex has not been militating on Palm Island for the right to protest, he has been organising for Palm Island self determination, to run their own affairs. Lex’s main project has been trying to get the community store under community control, for which he worked all through his trial.

    If we are serious about supporting Lex and his struggle we must go well beyond whinging about his conviction, we must engage in real strategies to build and strengthen Aboriginal agendas, such as Lex’s on Palm Island or, to engage in the unthinkable, such as the Aboriginal people in the communites in which we ourselves live and work.

    To make Lex a symbol of the white resistance movement is simply sweeping the real Aboriginal politics under the carpet.

    The Left and other non-Aboriginal supporters must not use Aboriginal issues and personalities to build the profile of their own ideologies and organisations. They must provide support in real terms to Aboriginal agendas as determined by leaders such as Lex and many others.

    In order for us to be able to engage with Aboriginal agendas we must first begin to try and understand what those agendas are, but we can never do that as long as we are obsessed about the simpllistic slogans and flashpoints so central to the left’s modus operandi.

    Deep and serious learning needs to occur, to transform the nature of the non-Aboriginal left so that it can indeed be usefull to the Aboriginal struggle, so that we can join the ABoriginal struggle rather than attempting to incorporate it into our own illusions of what the struggle is.

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