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Vol. 74/No. 46      December 6, 2010

Actions in Australia
protest police brutality
BRISBANE, Australia—Some 130 people rallied here in Queensland November 13 as part of a national day of protest against police brutality and the use of Taser guns by cops. More than 100 people also demonstrated in Perth, Western Australia.

Cops have killed at least three people using Tasers in the last two years. In June 2009 Antonio Galeano died after being Tasered up to 28 times by police in Townsville, in northern Queensland.

The protests were called following the release of CCTV footage taken in 2008 of an Aboriginal man being Tasered 13 times after refusing a strip search in a Perth jail. The video was part of a report by Western Australia’s Corruption and Crime Commission. The report found that police were increasingly using Tasers, especially on Indigenous people, to force suspects to comply with orders.

Sam Watson, a veteran Aboriginal activist who organized the Brisbane protest, reported that the previous day another Aboriginal man had been killed in a small New South Wales rural town. “Police used Tasers and capsicum [pepper spray] and then shot him dead,” Watson said. “We have to demand that the police be held accountable.”

“We rallied here in 1994 for Daniel Yock and in 2004 for Mulrunji Doomadgee,” Watson said. “Today we’re here again to demand that Hurley be tried again.”

Yock, a young Aboriginal dancer, was brutally beaten by cops and died in a police van in 1993.

In November 2004 Doomadgee was beaten to death in the police jail on Palm Island, off the northern Queensland coast. A coroner’s report released in September 2006 ruled that Queensland cop Christopher Hurley was responsible. Hurley, the first cop in the state of Queensland to be put on trial for an Aboriginal death in custody, was found not guilty in June 2007 by an all-white jury.

The rally also called for lifting the gag order on Lex Wotton, who in 2008 was sentenced to six years in jail for “inciting a riot’ on Palm Island. Following the initial autopsy in 2004 that exonerated the cops of killing Doomadgee, angry residents of the Palm Island Aboriginal community burned down the police station, barracks, and courthouse.

On July 19 Wotton was released under onerous conditions. He is banned from public meetings and venues where gambling is conducted, and from speaking to the media. He is also required to have a permit to travel interstate.

On November 11 at a lunch hosted by the Maritime Union of Australia in Sydney, Wotton was able to thank those who have supported his struggle. Speaking there, Aboriginal activist Lyall Munro compared the gag order to old bylaws that existed under the racist Aboriginal “Protection” Act in Queensland.  
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