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Issue #1743      August 10, 2016

Black Lives Matter rally

On the night of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, a neighbourhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman, after an altercation with an unarmed African American high school student, Trayvon Martin, shot and fatally wounded Martin. The incident sparked protests across the United States calling for justice for Trayvon Martin and an end to what many people both white and of colour saw as racially motivated violence.

As a response, in July 2013, three Black Queer women, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi formed the Black Lives Matter Network, now known by its Twitter embodiment, #Black Lives Matter.

The movement which they created seeks to rebuild the Black liberation movement and address the institutionalised racism, extra judicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes, the ways in which Black people are deprived of their basic human rights and dignity, the high rates of incarceration and the control, poverty and surveillance accorded to Black people.

The killing of Black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2015, helped to propel #Black Lives Matter further into the public spotlight and this year’s multiple killings of Black men in the United States has helped to spread the cause of the movement beyond the shores of the USA.

There have been Black Lives Matters rallies in Sydney and Melbourne, attended by over 3,500 people, and now in Perth.

The rally was organised by a collective of three women, Yasmina, Christelle and Jeremie who called the event Black Lives Matter Peacefully Rally and was held at the Perth Cultural Precinct in Northbridge on July 23.

It was attended by over 400 people and commenced with a traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony and welcome to country.

Perth has seen many rallies and protests on Aboriginal issues, from the closure of Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal deaths in custody, the Stolen Generations, land rights and native title. However, not since the anti-Apartheid protests of the 1970s and 1980s has there been a protest involving people of colour of the region and the world.

The organisers of the Perth Black Lives Matter Peacefully spread their message out across the city of Perth and the world through a Facebook account of the same name which had thousands of followers.

Aboriginal speakers included Selena and Robert Eggington, Mr Bropho and Mervyn Eades, the latter who had also recently been awarded a National Indigenous Human Rights Award.

Selena and Robert spoke on various aspects of the effects of the colonising experience on their Noongar Aboriginal people and the need to keep Black history alive to give positivity, identity and strength to current and future generations of Aboriginal people. The manner in which Aboriginal people see and look after land is not based on the Christian ethos, but in the ontology or being of Aboriginal culture and spiritually – their land (boodjar) is not meant to be bought or sold but to be “looked after”.

Mr Bropho gave a gut wrenching account of his experiences of incarceration which included accounts of the suicides of other Black inmates he had come into contact with as well as his own struggles in the various state incarceration facilities.

Mervyn Eades reminded the rally of the effects which institutionalisation was still having on today’s generations of Aboriginal people.

Christelle, one of the rally organisers spoke of the African experience of being seen as the “other” in a white society. In addition to being Black and the issues that may bring, many Africans from northern and eastern countries of the continent such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea are also Muslim which raises the prejudices associated with Islamophobia.

The Communist Party of Australia supports the aims of the rally and calls for an end to all forms of racism and the politics of division and supports a culture of respect and recognition.

Next article – Bayer and Monsanto: A marriage made in hell

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