An Aussie reporter covering the American protests in response to the alleged murder of George Floyd has come under fire for comments which many are calling “ignorant”.
While interviewing a black man standing behind a police blockade in Los Angeles, the reporter asked what he meant when he said “the county was built on violence,” before claiming that Aussies don’t have the same understanding of police violence.
“I really appreciate you giving your perspective mate, because people in Australia don’t have the understanding of the history of police killings and things here,” she said at the end of the interview.
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) May 30, 2020
The clip has gone viral on Twitter, with many – particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – pointing out that Australia does, in fact, have a long and ongoing history of police violence against black people.
Aboriginal deaths in custody are tragically commonplace in Australia.
In 2019, 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker was allegedly murdered by Constable Zachary Rolfe at his family home in Yuendumu. Meanwhile, just five days ago, a WA police officer (whose identity has been suppressed by the courts) plead not guilty to murdering Joyce Clarke in her Geraldton home last year.
The family of David Dungay still holds routine protests in their quest for justice. Dungay died while being pinned down by five police officers for eating a packet of biscuits. In CCTV footage, he can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” at least 12 times.
In Western Australia, Ms Dhu died after being taken into custody for unpaid bills. Laws in WA which call for jail time for unpaid bills have been found to disproportionately affect Aboriginal mothers. A GoFundMe page was set up in 2019 to bail these women out.
Additionally, the inquest into the death of Wayne Fella Morrison, who emerged blue and unresponsive from a police van before dying days later in hospital, remains ongoing, as does the inquest into the death of Aunty Tanya Day at a Castlemaine, Victoria, police station.
These are just a few incidents from the last few years. The history spans all the way back to the Frontier Wars, which started with invasion in 1788.
This is the most ignorant shit I have heard today. Australia doesn’t have this “history of police violence” or colonisation, are you kidding me? Have you lot not heard of our Deaths in Custody? Palm Island? Redfern? Terra Nullius and the Frontier Wars? You’re an embarrassing joke
— Celeste Liddle (@Utopiana) May 31, 2020
How embarrassing. “People in Australia doesn’t have the understanding of the history of Police killings here”. No; WE definitely do understand. We also have our own history of killings at the hands of police. What ignorance. https://t.co/PfpcTQ3AKD
— Senator Briggs (Biblically Accurate) (@Briggs) May 31, 2020
My 9 yo just watched this with me and said “Police kill people here all the time, what is she talking about! This place was built on violence too. People here are always racist, why is she pretending it’s different”. https://t.co/KqmrhIymIk
— ANCESTRESS (@AncestressEra) May 31, 2020
The whiteness of this video… first she said he wanted to talk to them when it was the other way around. Then at the end of the interview say we don’t know any history of police brutality. Who are you talking about? Black folks have always known. https://t.co/GTLADuKCCq
— vika (@endlessyarning) May 31, 2020
In response to to local headlines about the protests in the US, Darumbal and South Sea Islander academic and journalist Amy McQuire highlighted the hypocrisy of many white Australians who performative feign concern over the murder of black people in the US by police while remaining ignorant Australia’s own deaths in custody.
“While the high profile deaths of black men in the United States have allowed white Australians to see the racist violence perpetrated by police and the white supremacy ingrained in systems, these are lessons they are not willing to learn on this land,” she wrote in a Substack article.
“They are able to proclaim ‘Black Lives Matter’ in ways that circumvent their complicity in the deaths of black people here.
“If you want to support ‘Black Lives Matter’, support it in this country too.”
The situation in the US is undeniably horrific, she argues, and deserves widespread attention. But that’s no excuse for ignoring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody in Australia.
In Sydney, a public vigil has been organised next weekend by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander activists for Floyd, and in solidarity with those protesting all over the US. It will also be a repeated call for justice for Dungay and his family. Both men’s last words were: “I can’t breathe.”
The event’s Facebook page reads: “Justice for David Dungay Jr, justice for George Floyd, and justice for all those who came before them.”