Marchers pay a silent tribute to Daniel Yock
Daniel Yock’s brother Lionel Fogarty, left, speaking at the protest forum yesterday.
Fears that violence would mar a day of Aboriginal protest evaporat ed when 4000 demonstrators marched silently through the streets of Brisbane yesterday in protest against the latest black death in custody.
The hour-long march to the city from the popular Aboriginal meeting spot, Musgrave Park, was strictly controlled by 50 marshals including burly former Australian rugby league star Sam Backo and Brisbane Broncos fullback Shane Duffy.
Marching up to 15 abreast in some streets, the protesters obeyed pleas by Aboriginal elders for a “silent tribute” to Daniel Yock, the 18-year-old Aborig inal dancer who died 10 days ago in the back of a police van soon after he was arrested.
The Criminal Justice Commission is investigating his death.
“This is exactly the sort of demonstration I hoped it would be,” said Inspector Don Gardner, one of the senior police in the field who made sure police also reduced tension by keeping a low profile.
Last week, angry Aborigines had staged a violent protest outside Brisbane police headquarters, leaving more than 30 police and demonstrators injured.
But yesterday, the dominating sounds from the huge demonstration were the shouts of the marshals keep ing the marchers under control and the haunting sound of a didgeridoo coming from a portable loud speaker.
The marchers laid a wreath near Musgrave Park to mark the spot where
Mr Yock was arrested.
And in the city watchhouse car park, Mr Yock’s brother Lionel Fogarty and family members placed a white cross decked with roses beside a symbolic miniature coffin at the spot they believe the young Aborigine died.
Unable to contain their emotions any longer, the huge crowd burst into wild cheering and loud applause when the car park ceremony ended.
Most of the marchers began punching the air with clenched fists in the world-wide black power salute, but the marshals and Aboriginal community elders moved quickly to restore quiet
After the march the crowd returned to Musgrave Park for a wake.
Inspector Bob Atkinson said: “The Aboriginal community has conducted itself very well”.
Police fears of violence had been out lined at a briefing for officers before yesterday’s Operation Herriot.
They were told intelligence reports had suggested “extremists” would at tempt to disrupt proceedings.
These fears were shared by Aborigi nal spokesman Sam Watson who said “community intelligence” had reports that outside elements would try to provoke confrontation.
But after listening to a number of speakers who highlighted injustices to Aborigines, the final speaker, Tiga Bayles, told the crowd: “Let’s go out there now and have a peaceful march”.
Queensland Aboriginal Affairs Min ister Anne Warner who attended part of the march, said: “Aborigines have made a peaceful but powerful protest to the people of Australia today”.
Other marches around Queensland were also peaceful with police at Mt
Isa, Rockhampton Cairns and Townsville reporting no incidents.
In Sydney, about 250 people gathered to protest outside a NSW Police Service building, chanting “jail killer cops” and “justice”, but causing no trouble.