SYDNEY – There have been protests around Australia after the alleged murder in police custody of an Aboriginal man by a police officer in the Northern Territory.
Kumanjayi Walker, 19, was shot dead on November 9 in the remote Indigenous settlement of Yuendumu, 300 kilometers north-west of Alice Springs in Central Australia.
He died at the local police station after two police officers had tried to arrest him for parole breaches.
Northern Territory police allege the teenager had attacked the officers. There are reports the Aboriginal man was armed, possibly with a knife.
But his family argues that unnecessary force was used, and that the police should have used a Taser, an electronic stun gun, to subdue him.
The death sparked demonstrations in Alice Springs and Darwin as well as in Sydney and Melbourne.
Moogy Sumner, an Indigenous elder, believes police stationed in Aboriginal settlements should not be allowed to carry guns.
“The police should be disarmed. If they are going into communities they need to take a Taser with them,” said Sumner. That is better than shooting them dead. You take guns to war, you do not take guns to a place where you are going to be friendly towards people. If people need guns to protect themselves, why not give us guns to protect ourselves?”
The accused officer intends to plead not guilty, according to the police union.
Walker is the second Aboriginal person to have died in the past two months after being shot by police.
Joyce Clarke, who was 29, was fatally wounded in Western Australia in September. Authorities say the investigation into her death is continuing.
A royal commission in the late 1980s investigated Aboriginal deaths in custody over a 10-year period, but few of the inquiry’s 330 recommendations were implemented.
In 2017, prominent Indigenous rights campaigner Noel Pearson said that Aboriginal Australians were “the most incarcerated people on…planet Earth”.
Official figures released in September show that Aboriginal prisoners represented 28% of the total full-time adult inmate population in Australia.
The nation’s original inhabitants make up just over 3 per cent of the Australian population.
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