SYDNEY — The police killing of 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker Nov. 9 in Yuendumu, an Aboriginal settlement of some 1,000 people in central Australia, has sparked widespread protests across the country. Thousands nationwide joined demonstrations to protest the cop killing Nov. 13, including here and in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin, Lismore and Canberra.
In response to the outcry, one of the cops, Zachary Rolfe, was charged with murder, the first cop to face this charge over an Aboriginal death in custody. Rolfe has been granted bail, and is suspended with pay. He says he will plead not guilty.
More than 1,000 people rallied in Alice Springs the next day, including several hundred who had come in a convoy three hours from Yuendumu. “We want to know the truth. No more lies,” Warlpiri elder Harry Jakamarra Nelson told the crowd as they marched to the police station there.
The cops said they had gone to arrest Walker for breaches of a suspended sentence. He was shot three times in his own home, and eyewitnesses said he was dragged back to the police station where officers locked themselves in and switched off the lights. Walker received no medical attention.
Around 100 family members and others from Yuendumu gathered outside seeking word on his condition. They weren’t told of his death until the next morning.
More than 400 Indigenous people have died while in custody since 1991.
Since the killing, the Territory Response Group, which is part of the Australian government’s counterterrorism forces, has been deployed to the region.
The Walker family is demanding the Coroner’s Court inquest — a public hearing required when someone dies in custody — take place in Yuendumu.
“We’re just so angry,” Napurrurla, Walker’s grandmother, told the New York Times.