Brisbane, Australia – A major victory has been won by the Indigenous movement in Australia. The Queensland Attorney General’s Department has decided that Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley will be charged with manslaughter over the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee. Mulrunji, an aboriginal man, died in police custody on Palm Island, an aboriginal community, in 2004.
The announcement was greeted with a massive outbreak of cheers, applause and the cry of “justice!” when it was made by Andrew Boe, the legal advisor to the Palm Island council to the seven hundred gathered at the annual Invasion Day rally here.
“I think it is important , “ Boe told the rally, “that once we have got to a point where a decision has gone our way that we with grace and with real generosity let this process occur so that at the end of the day a result comes back that we can, as an overall community, be comfortable with. “
“The one thing I have been looking for, “ he continued,” is a just result according to law and today is the first hope that this is going to occur.” [Background]
The announcement that Hurley would be charged changed the focus of the rally he was addressing. It became a more conscious celebration of aboriginal resistance. Since many indigenous activists had come to Brisbane for the protest from communities across Queensland and New South Wales, Invasion Day was also presented an opportunity to discuss and plan ahead.
This was a theme taken up by Lyle Monroe from Mooree, NSW, who urged the rally to use the success in securing a charge against Hurley as a catalyst for re-uniting Indigenous political activists on the east coast of Australia.
“This day is the day of the invasion and the massacre of our people and that will continue unless we on the East Coast of this country stand up constructively with the intestinal fortitude to say ‘No more!’”
Monroe then asked the crowd to remember the great indigenous leaders who were involved in the first great political resistance in 1938. Aboriginal warriors like Jack Paton, Bill Ferguson, William Cooper, and Pearly Gibbs
“We have to be the east coast of this country again,” he continued,” and we have to tell all those blacks who have allowed themselves to be appointed by respective governments whether they be the Labor right wing or the Liberal right wing:’Shut your mouths!’”
This sense of the continuity of struggle was a major theme for the day. Prior to the rally, forty indigenous activists and their supporters had gathered at the central Brisbane post office to commemorate Dundalee — an aboriginal warrior executed in 1855 by the colonial authorities for defending his land and culture.
Invasion Day events continued throughout the day with a march following the rally and a concert at Musgrave Park in West End.
The decision to charge Hurley with manslaughter was made after a report by former New South Wales chief justice Sir Laurence Street found there was enough evidence to charge the officer . This was in contrast with the recommendation handed down by the state’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Leanne Clare, which had ruled that Hurley was innocent of wrong doing.
While Sen Sgt Hurley has now been suspended, ABC News has reported Police Union’s Denis Fitzpatrick as saying that “police right across this state are furious.” And a report in the local The Courier Mail said that Fitzpatrick was warning that the state’s 9200-strong police force could strike over the decision.
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