The killing of African American George Floyd by a policeman has sparked the largest rally in Darwin in years with indigenous people linking it to their own treatment by police and deaths in custody.
An estimated 1000-plus people marched through Darwin on Saturday chanting “Whose lives matter? Black lives matter”.
Darwin has the largest proportion of indigenous people of any Australian capital city.
The rally was organised by two young indigenous Larrakia women, cousins Sharna Alley and Mililma May, both aged 21.
The women organised a similar rally in Darwin last November after the fatal police shooting in Yuendumu of indigenous 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker.
NT Police Constable Zachary Rolfe, 28, was charged with one count of murder over the shooting but intends to plead not guilty.
“On Larrakia land children have been stolen, Aboriginal language and culture has been stolen,” Ms May told the crowd.
“On Larrakia land Aboriginal children make up 100 per cent of the Don Dale youth detention centre, on Larrakia and surrounding land Aboriginal people are killing themselves at the highest rate in the world.
“Our Aboriginal men, women and children are targeted by police … a system that killed Kumanjayi Walker.”
The rally was peaceful with people of different nationalities and ages but there was palpable anger, with Mr Floyd’s killing in the US having sparked global action over perceived racism.
“Until 1967, we weren’t even recognised, only labelled as flora and f… ing fauna, are you kidding me, in our own land,” sung local indigenous woman and artist Ray-Ray McKenzie in a hip hop poetry style to the crowd.
Keara Mack, an indigenous woman of Queensland’s Gunggandji tribe, said the fact that more than 430 indigenous people had died in custody since 1991 showed the system was failing Aboriginal people and something needs to be done.
She said she had been particularly affected by the 2014 death of West Australian woman Ms Dhu, 22, who was locked up for two days for $3622 in unpaid fines before she died over health issues police were slow to act on.
“I think many Australians have had fines they struggled to pay or maybe haven’t been able to pay and I would hate to think that this could easily have been me,” she told AAP.
A Custody Notification Service was introduced in late 2018 in which NT Police were legally required to notify a new welfare hotline whenever an Aboriginal person was arrested to prevent deaths in custody.
NT Police said at the time they laid criminal charges against more than 13,000 indigenous people a year on average, in a jurisdiction with less than 250,000 people, but more were arrested and not charged.
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