Protests around Australia to stop Indigenous deaths in custody
Thousands seeking justice and change have attended rallies around Australia to voice anger and frustration over the number of Indigenous deaths in custody.
Tensions were high as around 1,500 protestors marched from the steps of Sydney’s Town Hall to the Domain for the Stop Deaths in Custody rally today.
Around 50 police watched on and helped with traffic flow around the CBD.
Since the Royal Commission report into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was handed down in 1991, 474 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody, including five since the start of March this year.
Signs and banners held by protesters read ‘Justice Now’, ‘Stop Killing Us’ and ‘Shame Australia’.
David Dungay Junior was just weeks away from release when he died in Long Bay jail in December 2015.
The 26-year-old was eating Tim Tams in his cell when a guard ordered him to stop and he refused.
Corrective Services officers then ordered Dungay be moved into a different cell with CCTV and armed guards were called in to perform a “cell extraction”.
According to the incident report published by the NSW Health Department, Dungay died “during a use of physical restraint and rapid tranquillisation in an inpatient mental health unit.” The cause of death was “unascertained”.
His death had parallels with that of George Floyd in the United States. He was held down by prison officers and said “I can’t breathe” before he died.
His mother Leetona Dungay told the crowd of protestors she is still waiting for justice.
“No more Royal Commissions. We want justice. Keep fighting until we live in a country where black lives matter,” Ms Dungay said.
Greens MP David Shoebridge also spoke on the steps of Town Hall, passionately telling the rally “something’s rotten in Australia”.
“There’s an outpouring of grief for a man who died on the other side of the world, while hundreds of first nations people are being killed in Australia,” Mr Shoebridge said.
He said a key recommendation from the royal commission has been ignored as hanging points remain in jails.
Mr Shoebridge called for an independent investigation of each death in custody.
The speeches made at the protest were filled with emotion.
“Sick of hearing about racism? I’m sick of talking about it! Are you angry? Because I am,” one speaker told the crowd.
Protestors stopped for a minute’s silence near Hyde Park, remembering those who have died in custody and shouted for police to “take a seat”.
Large photographs of those who have died held aloft by their family members.