Indigenous Australia knows the cynicism exposed by Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson

By Larissa Behrendt an academic, writer, film maker and Indigenous advocate

After a Missouri grand jury declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch said that the decision was based upon physical and scientific evidence, not “public outcry or political expediency”.

This call for objectivity does little in a situation where autopsies show Wilson had shot Brown at least six times, twice in the head. McCulloch seemed to compromise his own objectivity by blaming social and news media for beating up a story, rather than acknowledging that when a young person is shot by law enforcement, people expect a level of accountability.

Watching the events in Ferguson unfold raises similar questions about Australia’s own legal system. The parallel is immediately drawn with the failure to secure a conviction in the case of 36-year-old Cameron Mulrunji Doomadgee, who died in a Palm Island lockup over 10 years ago.

Mulrunji was picked up for singing “Who let the dogs out” at a police officer, Chris Hurley, who drove past him in the street. He was charged with public nuisance. He had been in police custody for only an hour when he died. An autopsy revealed four broken ribs, which had ruptured his liver and spleen.

Hurley was indicted for assault and manslaughter but acquitted in 2007. He is the only person ever charged over a death in custody of an Aboriginal person in Australia.

Emotions overflowed after Doomadgee’s death in custody. A riot broke out on Palm Island. It was, like in Ferguson, as much a protest against a single act of injustice as against a system that seemed riddled with it. No police officer was ever successfully prosecuted for Doomadgee’s death, but several Aboriginal men, including Palm Island spokesperson Lex Wotton, were successfully prosecuted for the ensuing riots and received a seven year prison sentence.

Would it have been realistic to expect this outcome on Palm Island? The Ferguson grand jury’s decision certainly seems to have been anticipated on social media, reflecting the persistence of deep cynicism about the criminal justice system.

Anyone who has lived in the US – or even visited – will notice that poverty is racialised. 15.1% of Americans live in poverty; of that 28.4% were black and 26.6% were Hispanic. The events in Ferguson are perhaps a way of highlighting that the election of Barack Obama has done little or nothing to change the US’s deeply ingrained cultures of exclusion, marginalisation and stereotyping.

Obama’s response to the eruption of a new wave of violence, and the broader disappointment and anger about the grand jury decision, showed his own understanding of the perceptions of bias in the legal system. His call to respect the rule of law was accompanied by pleas for calm and constructive protest; then-Queensland premier Peter Beattie struck a similar tone after Hurley was acquitted, urging Queenslanders “to accept the decision of the court without question.”

 A rally in Brisbane following the police murder of Mulrinji Doomadgee 2004

Obama also admitted that there were legitimate grounds for mistrust of the police, including that white police officers are seen to get away with killing young black men, while young black men seem to have no problem getting locked up. According to US Department of Justice figures from 2009, African Americans make up 40% of the US male prison population.

These patterns are replicated in Australia. Between 2000 and 2013, the adult Indigenous imprisonment rate increased by 57%, while the non-Indigenous rate did not show significant change. The rate of juvenile detention sits at about 24 times that of non-Indigenous youth. Indigenous people make up just 3% of the Australian population.

There are dozens of instances where Aboriginal people are killed in custody. The 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody investigated 99 of them. Since then, 340 Indigenous people have died in custody.

Some of these have been high profile. In 2008, respected Elder Mr Ward died in the back of a paddy wagon, after being driven 400km across the WA desert. He had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

More recently, 22-year-old woman Ms Dhu died in police custody in the South Hedland police station while she was being held in police custody to “pay down” around $1,000 in unpaid fines.

These deaths accumulate to cause a similar level of distrust with a legal system, particularly in the way it administers justice. Other than the unsuccessful prosecution of Chris Hurley, not a single charge has been laid, not a single person held to account. To return to McCulloch, is the long-term failure of African Americans and Indigenous Australians by their legal systems not also an “objective” reality?

While there is much talk about why violence occurs in this context, it also raises the more profound and long-reaching question: what will we do to fix a system where cynicism is rife and racial bias seems to abound? How do we change a conversation when there is suspicion that the system is stacked against the marginalised, and the powerful are defensive about being critiqued.

If there is a shining answer to this problem, it’s the Aboriginal community of Redfern. Riots erupted there in 2004 when TJ Hickey, a 17-year old Aboriginal man, was killed. After police chased him in their car while he was riding his bike, he was impaled on a fence. Hickey’s death sparked an emotional response from a community that had long been targeted by the police. Violence broke out and was eventually beaten back by police with fire hoses; law enforcement were castigated by the Sydney Morning Herald for their poor preparation.

Perhaps nothing was unusual about the situation in Redfern. What was unusual was the longer-term response. Police command changed and the new officer in charge, Commander Luke Freudenstein, built a relationship with the local community. A range of programs to build self-esteem in young people, particularly young men, were a success. As a result of this grassroots effort, the community transformed and far fewer young Indigenous men were arbitrarily picked up by the police, to end up in the lockup.

The lesson isn’t that good can come from civil unrest, so much as that change really is possible, if we address the issues that lead to outbursts of emotion and violence.

As the events in Ferguson unfold, it’s clear that their community is a microcosm of the deep-seated issues in the US. Ferguson is perhaps also a sign of what happens anywhere that key institutions, like the criminal justice system, are unreflective about their own entrenched biases – biases that colour outcomes when justice is what we need most.

Originally posted at Guardian Australia.

BRISBANE G20 ANARCHY?

For a change from spreading fear about ‘Muslims’ the Courier Mail this weekend focused on ‘anarchists’.

The front cover for Saturday September 27 contains a beat up about plans for ‘anarchy’ at Brisbane’s G20.

So now is a good time reiterate that anarchy is not violence.

At the beginning of every episode of The Anarchy Show the introduction borrows these words from Alexander Berkman

“anarchism is not bombs, disorder, or chaos. it is not robbery and murder. it is not a war of each against all. Anarchism is the very opposite of all that”

Anarchism is love. Anarchist action stems from love. And that’s what puts us up against capitalism and economic organisations such as the G20.

Capitalism is not about love. Capitalism is about greed.

The result of capitalism is environmental destruction, poverty, an erosion of workers’ rights and war.

The focus of the article Brisbane G20 looms as security nightmare as protesters plan for mayhem
is a wordpress site planbg20.wordpress.com.

Apparently Plan B is a plan to unleash ‘waves of destruction’ during the G20 in Brisbane.

The Plan B site suggests actions, but gives no indication there are any groups or actual plans associated with it.

However no matter how much destruction or disruption an anarchist group might cause it will never equal the destruction caused by capitalism and the decisions made by the G20 and similar international organisations.

Bangladesh Factory Collapse
Unidentified bodies prepared for mass burial after a factory collapse killed more than 400 garment workers in Bangladesh. Decisions made by the G20 lead to poor work conditions and low wages for people in developing nations.

As I write this a war plane flies over head….. warming up for a display for Brisbane residents – Riverfire a ‘family’ event. Because under capitalism war is entertainment.

Yet according to the mainstream media, government and police anarchists – armed with a desire for equality and universal peace – are a threat.

The Plan B site does suggest some actions but none of those involve violence.

Property destruction is not violence.

And anyway there are far more important issues discussed on the Plan B site.

The violence, mayhem and destruction caused by neo-liberal capitalism which is at the heart of the G20’s agenda.

‘… neo-liberal policies lead to increased corporate control, and to increased levels of inequality between the rich an the poor – both locally and internationally. Neo-liberal policies include cuts to social services and support, a reduction of tariffs, and the privatisation of the public sector – including health care, education, social services and environmental protection.’

‘The gap between rich and poor is still growing. Children routinely die starving while hoarded food rots. The world moves daily closer to feeling the tangible effects of irreversible climate change. Profits flow through borders unimpeded (always into the pockets of the rich) but people are caught in razor wire traps.’

Oil Affected Pelicans
These pelicans wait to be cleaned after the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster in 2010. Environmental safe guards are ignored as corporations compete in the capitalist market place.

Bris-CAN is not Plan B

Saturday’s Courier Mail aims to draw links between the Plan B website and the Brisbane Community Action Network.

There are no links and the Courier Mail journalist David Murray was told this.

Robin Taubenfeld whose quote and photo was published inside the print version of the Courier Mail along side the article sent this message to David Murray –

“people have had concerns about past reporting and sensationalism from the Courier Mail. I request Courier Mail does not print any thing that implicate, incriminates or links me/briscan to plan b as you are aware that I/BrisCAN have not been involved. It would be irresponsible and unfortunate if the Courier Mail attempts to cast aspersions on me/us after I have commented in good faith.”

It’s not surprising the Murdoch paper choose to hype up the potential for so called violence during the G20 it once again reinforces that the mainstream media are part of the capitalist system and do not reflect the true interests of the community.

Trash

I’m including the article here so you don’t have to go to the Courier Mail website, and get sucked into the fear machine.

PROTESTERS are circulating a plan to unleash “waves of destruction” during Brisbane’s G20 summit.

The plot to mar the event — dubbed Plan B — is being distributed online.

It advocates destroying ATMs and other property and disrupting sport and social events. The plan cites an array of activist causes including globalisation, poverty and gay rights.

Attacks would be launched away from the heavily fortified security zones in favour of areas where police would be thinner on the ground.

Police yesterday extended the time and locations that would be subject to restrictions — security lockdowns will now begin on November 8, six days earlier than planned.

Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett said police needed the extra time because protesters would be out in force earlier than first anticipated.

The changes also mean the public will be banned from entering the Southbank Cultural Precinct — including the Gallery of Modern Art, the State Library of Queensland and the Queensland Art Gallery — on November 15.

Gambado Hotel on Caxton St, the Intercontinental Hotel, Sanctuary Cove Resort and the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel have been added as hotels for the delegates with strict security measures and join another nine in Brisbane City on the restricted list, meaning they are for the sole use of the G20 delegates.

Streets around the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre will now be closed from November 1.

Police Assistant Commissioner Katarina Carroll has condemned the plan for violence and said she would be “bitterly disappointed” if Brisbane’s G20 summit descended into the kind of chaos that has marred recent world economic summits.

“When we have got so much going on across the world in terms of terrorism ­issues, to push this out to ­various groups is irresponsible,” she said.

Placed online anonymously, Plan B adopts the motto “disrupt, resist, obstruct”.

Ms Carroll warned groups should be concerned about ­infiltration by “violent extremist protesters”, not police.

“Our biggest issue is people who want to lawfully protest and air their issues are ­infiltrated by violent people,” she said.

The Brisbane Community Action Network G20 (BrisCAN-G20) and Occupy Brisbane both shared the plan on Facebook this week.

BrisCAN-G20 organiser Robin Taubenfeld (pictured left), who is also with Friends of the Earth, said she did not know who was ­behind Plan B.

“I’m certainly not in a position to denounce or criticise Plan B,” Ms Taubenfeld said.

Plan B suggests people destroy billboards, “haunt” officials, occupy offices, strike, blockade and picket.

“Instead of gathering our strength and marching into the traps they have set for us, we are calling for disseminated disorder,” the plan reads.

“We are calling for people to form affinity groups in their home towns and autonomously organise decentralised direct action against the G20 and the capitalist occupation of our lives.

“Just imagine, while the pigs are helplessly patrolling the streets of Brisbane’s CBD in their ridiculous armour with their intimidating vehicles, decentralised waves of creation and destruction will ebb and flow right across the country.

“There is nothing more beautiful we can think of.”

Associate Professor Janet Ransley, head of the Griffith University criminology and criminal justice school, said groups prominent in previous G20 events in Toronto and London could be expected.

“It’s going to be a very difficult task for police. They’re going to be very concerned by this conflation of this terrorist risk with this volatile crowd situation,” she said.

HO$TiLE TAKEOVER ANARCHY MIX

hotiletakeover

The show got hijacked by Nick One from the Hostile Takeover crew….. and he played a mix of the most gangster anarchy flavoured hip hop available for you to smash the state with.

LISTEN ONLINE

DOWNLOAD FROM RADIO4ALL

Check out Nick’s Soundcloud to hear some dope tracks he has produced and MCed in.

Hostile Takeover’s Soundcloud.

PLAYLIST

Rage Against The Machine – Know your Enemy
Police – Walking On The Moon
N.W.A. – Fuck Tha Police
Geto Boys – G Code
Body Count – Cop Killer
Dead Prez featuring Jay-Z  – Hell Yeah Remix
Thirsten Howell III – John They’re Stealing (Part 2)
Quasimoto – Bad Character
Gappy Ranks & P-Money – Baddest
Honey Cocaine – Bad Gal          (Female)
KK Holliday featuring Young Scooter – Mums          (Female)
Pauly – Driving Tips          (Australian)
Notorious Big – Gimme The Loot
Kool G Rap featuring MF Grimm – Take ‘Em To War
Mobb Deep featuring 50 Cent – Talk My Way In
Wu-Tang Clan – Bring Da Ruckus
Ol Dirty Bastard vs The Beatles – Outta Here (Interlude)
Snoop Dogg – Cold World Freestyle (Westwood Show)
Afu-Ra – Equality (Interlude)
MF Grimm – Angel Without Wings (Interlude)
Colin & Clayton – Do You Want More          (Local/Indigenous/New)

Systems of Control

Listen Online

Download from Radio4all

This week on Tweet Back Radio which airs on 4ZZZ before The Anarchy Show the crew asked the question – who do the police serve?

So we continued this discussion into the beginning of the show and our discussion is included in this episode of Autonomous Action Radio.

Following this Peter reviews Thomas Kineally’s book Shame and the Captives which centres around another system of control – the army.

We also take a look at the ‘black bloc’ tactic with The Stimulator in the latest episode of It’s the End of the World as we Know it and I feel fine!!

And the coal industry

Music

99 Posse – Rigurgito Antifascista info
Fugees – The Score info
The Saints – Securty City info
The Pogues – The Band Played Waltzing Matilda info
The Great Shame – Police State

Sic Semper Tyrannis

On this weeks show we take a break from the Anarchist/Activist alphabet to look into The International Day Against Police Brutality, listen to a brand new sedition from The Stimulator and hear some classic songs about the po po.

Listen Here

Download from Radio4all

Bedding music – Welcome Clarity

Fuck tha Police

 

Fault the Police (I don’t) – Corporate Avenger

Pork and Beef

Two Cups of Tea

March 15 is the International Day Against Police Brutality… and this year Autonomous Action Radio held an event where local Murri activist Sam Watson spoke about the history of police brutality in Queensland and what measures can and have been put in place to prevent it.

Around the world marches/actions were held in Canada, America, the UK, Europe and Bangladesh.

 In Memphis Tennessee Black Panther Lorenzo Komboa Ervin was interviewed at an action held at the city hall he explains the origins of the day.

Montreal in Canada has also been involved in the International Day Against Police Brutality since its beginnings in 1997. As we heard during It’s the End of the World as We know it and I feel fine the streets of Montreal have been filled with rage as students protest increases in tuition fees  and the rage continued as the protest against police brutality was marked by more police brutality… Anarchist News also reports a police car was set on fire.