Verdict delivered in case of persecuted Aboriginal family

Over the last two days, the verdict was delivered in the case of the five adult defendants arrested on trumped up charges following a violent police raid on the home of an Aboriginal family living in the Outer Western Sydney suburb of Riverstone. The police raided the home after 8am in the morning after the 21st birthday party of "Tisha" (i.e. Letisha) Hickey. During the raid in September last year, Tisha was dragged across the road and crushed by police leaving her with bruises on her arms, legs and stomach. A sleazy male cop also lifted up her skirt and inappropriately touched her.

The family are relatives of TJ Hickey and their persecution is in part because the police are trying to punish TJ's extended family for their defiant refusal to abandon the quest for justice for TJ. TJ Hickey was killed by racist police in February 2004 after they chased him through the streets of Redfern while he was riding his bicycle and rammed his bicycle.

The completely bogus charges that the defendants faced were serious including the charges of affray and assaulting police officers.

The following are the main points of the verdict and the case as it stands:

* Tisha, who had been hit with among the most serious charges, was acquitted of all charges and it was found that her arrest was unlawful.

* It was found that the police responded to the alleged "noise complaint" (the pretxt for the raid) in a confrontational manner.

* The other defendants were all acquitted of the most serious charge of affray but were convicted of minor charges. They received penalties ranging from, at the upper end, 12 months good behaviour bond to at the lower end, no penalty at all. Some of them are likely to appeal this.

* The separate trial of the two children arrested (including Tisha's younger brother) has been adjouned until next month.

* Tisha was given nearly $10,000 in compensation.

Tisha should have received a lot more compensation and the others should have received it too. That some of the defendants received any conviction at all instead of the violent police that attacked them, once again confirms the racist, anti-working class nature of Australia’s rich people’s “justice” system. It is a disgusting system!

Nevertheless, a year ago, the police would have expected that they would face no obstacle to sending to jail members of this low-income, Aboriginal family that they are persecuting in Outer Western Sydney. And they would never have thought that Tisha would end up not only being acquitted of all charges but receiving significant (if wholly inadequate) compensation. So clearly the racist authorities were pushed back. This is significant especially when one considers how biased the legal system is and how determined the police were to crush the family and intimidate them from any effort to fight the charges.

That the police received this setback is not due to any particular fairness in the magistrate. The magistrates are all very, well-paid pillars of the current society and capitalist system with all its prejudices and bias. This magistrate was no exception. The most telling indication of this was when in her verdict she ruled that the police officer who provoked the incident had not acted unlawfully or improperly. Yet as the attached video of the start of the incident shows, the sergeant in charge of the police operation provocatively steps forward into the face of Tisha’s cousin, Jade Hickey, and then outrageously demands, “Get out of my face!” When he tries to defuse the situation by saying “no one is in your face” and retreats, the cop shoves him. See attached video for proof.

The only reason that the police did not end up getting what they wanted in this case is because the authorities were aware of how widely known were the accounts of the police’s actions at Tisha’s 21st and how much anger that had provoked. They feared that imposing harsh sentences would lead to more agitation and campaigning to expose police violence.

By courageously publicizing the accounts of the police attack on them, the Riverstone family has done a favour to not only themselves but to everyone who is a target for police violence. Well done to all those who participated in the campaign to support them. That campaign linked defence of the family with the need to more broadly oppose police violence against Aboriginal people,
non-white “ethnic” people, striking workers manning picket lines, the homeless etc.

Attached are a couple of photos from Sunday’s action in Parramatta which demanded “Drop All Charges Against Those Arrested at Tisha’s 21st! Stop Persecuting the Aboriginal Hickey family! Down with Racist Police Attacks!” The photos show the crowd intently watching video footage of the police raid on a portable big screen, while Tisha's mother, Patricia, gives commentary on the footage.

There is a fuller account of the rally in this Indymedia reference: rally account

and it is also covered in an article in the print version of the current issue of National Indigenous Times, a summary of which can be found online on: NIT summary