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Issue #1581      February 13, 2013

TJ Hickey: What do nine years mean?

For nine long years Gail Hickey and her Family have indefatigably campaigned for Justice in the death of their son, TJ Hickey, an Aboriginal man just 17 years old. He died as a consequence of the Redfern police pursuit that ended with his death the following day.

(Photo: Brami Jegan)

For nine long years Gail, the Family and their supporters have been telling and re-telling the history. His bike was rammed by a police car; he was thrown in the air with great force, and landed on the spiked fence line, again with great force.

Instead of ensuring proper medical attention was given by the first police officer on the scene, then-Constable Michael Hollingsworth, TJ was roughly pulled off the spikes and thrown to the concrete, then searched, whereby he bled very heavily despite the alleged assistance by Hollingsworth. Basic first aid rules, as all police are trained for, insist that impaled victims must be left in situ or to remain impaled until the Police Rescue Unit is called to assist.

When the Police Rescue Unit did arrive with medically trained and competent staff, Hollingsworth sent them away. Finally two ambulances arrived and took over but instead of taking him to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, the closest, he was transported to the Prince of Wales hospital at Randwick. He died early next morning.

For nine long years we have witnessed the history of every police Death in Custody repeated in this case: The innocents were convicted and jailed and the guilty got away and promoted in their ranks. How so? That Sunday night the many youth who knew TJ and/or others who blamed the Redfern police for the death of TJ became involved in the so-called Redfern riots. These young people were angered by the police driving through and around the Block telling Aboriginal kids that they would be next and also disrespecting the Hickey Family in their grief by pointing to them and laughing. Family complaints were ignored by the senior police of the time and their rightful anger was later vented.

But the aftermath of these events were really bizarre: the police officers involved were promoted, the fighters for justice were arrested, some convicted and even did some time in jail. The Carr government concerned with other reactions offers a “Taj Mahal” in Redfern building the Redfern Community Centre in the Block as a tokenistic act to calm the Aboriginal people.

Nine years ago ISJA (Indigenous Social Justice Association) became involved and offered Gail Hickey the services of a solicitor and a barrister whom were expected to have a vigorous fight for justice for the Hickey Family. The police and the Carr government however had other ideas and talked Gail into accepting a government-and-police-sponsored legal team that did very little in representing the Family in their fight for justice.

Nine years ago the NSW Coroner, John Abernethy, firmly restricted the scope of the Coronial inquest. The allowable evidence was restricted also. Normal legal and Coronial procedures and practices were not followed, like presenting the Final Autopsy Report.

This report would have confirmed that TJ was thrown with a massive force on to the fence line, denying the argument of a bike accident. Also TJ’s bicycle was not presented in court as evidence but remained as “evidence of a police investigation”. Perplexingly, when the bike was handed back to the Family, they noticed that both bike wheels had been replaced by new ones and did not show any damage caused by the ramming to the rear wheel as was shown in one of the TV news bulletin on that fateful Saturday evening.

The court also blocked two witnesses (found by ISJA), that saw the Police Rescue Unit arrive and leave as instructed by Hollingsworth. The Coroner himself stopped the participation of a medically qualified Forensic Consultant, Dr Carl Hughs, (also connected to ISJA) appearing for the Family. Despite the threat by the Counsel Assisting the Coroner to summon the mobile phone communications between the four police officers involved in the incident, it never happened.

Also a police officer, who was a direct participant in the incident, was moved immediately from Redfern police station that weekend for his own safety, allegedly from the Block Community. He gave his testimony and after that he disappeared to an unknown destination. Coroner Abernethy was scathing of the Community in their attitude to this officer.

Now, nine years later still there are serious concerns about processes and outcomes of the police investigation, that amounted to a cover up, (again very common in Deaths in Custody), and also to the legal farce of the arranged Coronial inquest. So, for the ninth time, Gail, the Family, the Communities where TJ lived, ISJA and other supporters, continue to call for justice, the reopening of a wider investigation into the facts, the non-appearance of witnesses and all other withheld evidence, to allow for a full forensic examination of the facts to reach an honest and Just conclusion.

Now, nine years later, we have reissued the petition calling for Justice for TJ and his Family. We need as many signatures as possible. You can download a copy from the ISJA site on Facebook, Stop Black Deaths in Custody Rally for 9th Anniversary of TJ Hickey 2013.

We need to put together as many signatures as possible and for many to join the march to the NSW Parliament House, headed by Gail Hickey and the Family on February 14, 2013.

Nine years is just too long to call for real justice although other Deaths in Custody Families have fought for over 30 years. We have personally seen the physical and mental damage done to these Families and it is nothing but state-sanctioned torture by governments and their police forces to allow these injustices to continue.

Many more than nine years of struggle gives to Ray Jackson, president of ISJA, the right to demand to Julia Gillard, who is talking about Aboriginal recognition, “What about recognising over 400+ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Deaths in Custody since January 1,1980 and including those suicides/deaths in her racist NT Intervention?”

Nine years ago we saw the TJ death as a continuation of the racist police action towards Aboriginal people in this country. Today we know that as it was true at the time, so was it in the Mulrunji, Mr Ward, Mr Briscoe cases, among so many others. What we also came to realise was that behind the protection of their police “no matter what” by governments and courts, the continuous enactment of laws empowering police, the provision to the forces with new weapons (like water cannon, capsicum spray, Tasers) and the development of new tactics of crowd control, a riot squad, internet vigilance, engagement of some Community Organisations and Community Individuals, was a perfectly but anti-social orchestrated plan.

This plan, aimed against our most elemental democratic and human rights, was enacted to stop active social dissent, to attack Aboriginal people, migrant and religious minorities first, and to also include ethnic solidarity organisations, anti-war groups, and broader protest groups like Occupy and workers like the Grocon protests in Melbourne and others who were deemed to be noncompliant/different and therefore dangerous to the establishment.

Now on the ninth anniversary of TJ’s death we have to hugely multiply our efforts to get the broadest participation possible to allow us to neutralise the waves of police brutality and their indiscriminate and torturous use of Tasers and pepper spray.

Confronting us, however, is a particular sense of immunity instilled in the police by the lack of public and independent investigations of any incidents where police were involved that resulted in damages, injury or even death of people. The struggle for justice for TJ and for Deaths in Custody is totally entangled in that constant battle between the oppressors and the oppressed. This battle is happening everywhere and it is very important that we must win it. Every win counts because every step forward brings the possibility to recover our diminished rights. Gail Hickey, the Family and their supporters don’t want to have a tenth anniversary without justice.

Join the struggle to make this a reality.

Ray Jackson & Raul Bassi   

Next article – Statement in support of the rights of Bob Carnegie

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