International day of Solidarity for Lex Wotton

Tagged as: campaigns repression_surveillance
Neighbourhoods: aldwych

Action taken last Thursday in London as part of International Day of Solidarity for Lex Wotton, Australian Aboriginal political prisoner.

Last Thursday 6 November around 30 people gathered in a peaceful demonstration outside the Australian High Commission in London as part of a day of international solidarity for Aboriginal man Lex Wotton.? Actions also took place across Australia and in Sweden, New Zealand, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Colombia.? The international day of solidarity coincided with the handing down of Lex?s sentence of six years for his part in the anti-racist riots of 2004 on Palm Island, during which the Palm Island community burnt down the police station following the death in custody of Cameron Mulrunji Doomadgee.? Mulrunji was arrested for drunkenly singing ?who let the dogs out? as he walked past a police van where two officers were arresting another Aboriginal man.? He died of massive internal injuries including having his spleen ruptured and his liver almost cleaved in two.? The arresting officer, Chris Hurley, is a seven foot tall white man who had not met Mulrunji before.? Indeed, Mulrunji had no criminal record and was a well-respected and liked member of the Palm Island community.
The initial inquiry into Mulrunji?s death was conducted by two of Hurley?s fellow officers from the nearby mainland town of Townsville, Stephen Kitching and Darren Robinson, the latter of whom is a known friend of Hurley?s.? Hurley picked up both officers from the Palm Island airport on the evening of Mulrunji?s death and had them round for dinner and beers at his house.?
The riot which Lex Wotton and many other members of the community were involved with arose immediately following the official announcement on the island that Mulrunji?s death was an unfortunate accident.? While the community did set fire to the police station and order the police to leave the island, no police officers were injured during the riot, apart from one who claimed he obtained a bruise on his hip when an object was thrown at him. At any rate, all officers present during the riots have been heavily compensated by the Queensland government, (including a A$100,000 payout to Chris Hurley), as well as being awarded ?bravery medals?.
In response to the riots, the state Premier declared a state of emergency of Palm Island and deployed large numbers of ?special emergency response team? officers to the island, armed with semi-automatic weapons.
The Palm Island riot was an essential and effective political action which brought media attention to what is otherwise a completely ignored area of Australia.? There have been over 250 Aboriginal deaths in custody in Australia since 1990 (and many many more before that) and Mulrunji?s was the first to result in any charges against the responsible officer.? It was undoubtedly the actions taken during the riot that led to the coronial inquiry into the death, which in turn led to Hurley being prosecuted for manslaughter.? Unfortunately Hurley?s trial took place before an all-white jury in Townsville, which is a military base and one of the most racially divided town in Australia. No disciplinary action has been taken against Hurley and he has recently been promoted to Inspector.
In stark contrast, Lex Wotton has now been sentenced to six years in custody and the Palm Island community continues to suffer from Mulrunji?s death and from ongoing police brutality.? Those who are organising the campaign for Lex in Australia and visiting him in prison have reported back that he is deeply moved and heartened that action is being taken internationally.? Messages of support can be emailed to freelexwotton@gmail.com">freelexwotton@gmail.com, and will be passed on to him in prison.