For my nightshift partner and I, while we had a couple of standoffs at noisy parties and were called to help roll the stingers out for a stolen car, the days leading up to the BLM protest passed without major incident. My station uses a shift roster that, rather than going straight onto days off, rolls from 10pm-6am into 6pm-2am, and then to 2am-10am, the intention being to get your body clock into some semblance of normality. The protest day was on our 2pm-10pm shift. I was aware a lot was going on over social media and expected the demonstration to be big.
It was too. Several hundred turned up — mostly whites, of course, as we have a university and heaps of students. COVID-19 assisted too. People didn’t have to worry about work and had plenty of time on their hands. We listened to the police radio carefully but nothing serious came over, and I breathed a big sigh of relief when it was done. The reports I got from the coppers at the protests were positive. Intelligence and the negotiators had done hard yards prior to the event and also had reached out to organisers. Unlike the footage we’ve all seen of US reporters standing in front of burning buildings while assuring viewers that riots were just protests and, laughably, “mostly peaceful”, our protestors were pretty good. They met in a local park, went for a walk, chanted and chalked some slogans on footpaths. When a few idiots climbed on top of a power box and started fist-pumping, they were pulled down by the crowd.
Part I: Black Lies Splatter
The police Cross Cultural Unit were handing out face masks to the crowd — a great engagement strategy — and there were no counter-protests. As I write, there is another event coming up and the same sort of preparations are being implemented. There will be some present who really will want trouble and violence, but I am optimistic it will go well.
Protest is important at every level of reality. When hungry our stomach protests. Protest is a mechanism where we recognize issues that need to be corrected in our bodies and in the body of our society. But you shouldn’t act on every protest. Those who respond to every urging of their stomachs end up obese and probably diabetic too. We can’t ignore the BLM protests any more than one can ignore the rumbling of an empty stomach. But like eating, protesting is of value only if it nourishes.
While it’s true that marchers and protesters are fighting a straw man when it comes to the ‘killer cops murdering indigenous people’ narrative, it’s not like the rumblings have no point. Besides the misguided ‘positive discrimination’ in sentencing (which I discussed in the first part of this report and which demeans indigenous victims), there are other and genuine manifestations of racism in the justice system. Take the Alcohol Management plans, for example, which are indigenous-specific. Although presented as measures defined only by geography, they are laws targeted specifically at indigenous people. The lawmakers knew it when they wrote and passed their legislation, the police know it, and indigenous people know it too. The effectiveness or otherwise of these prohibition-style laws targeted at one population group is something I don’t have the time or inclination to discuss here at length, except to note that there is a lot of pushback against and that these laws prompt some really ugly and violent incidents when people won’t give up their grog, plus lots of high-risk situations when those with alcohol on board attempt to evade police at high speed. Regardless of intention or effectiveness, these highly coercive laws foster resentment and create conscientious objectors. They undermine the very legitimacy of the rule of law and negatively impact on police/indigenous relations.
Another motivator is complicated and subjective laws, like those aimed at domestic violence, which are applied inconsistently. Domestic violence is something that exerts a disproportionate impact on indigenous Australians and is another issue that warrants attention, but not in the way feminist activists use it as a broad assault on men generally and masculinity. Male aggression is most often expressed physically; women, who can be just as relentlessly aggressive, tend to attack mind, character, reputation and psyche, and ignoring this reality also ignores that it impacts greatly on arrest and incarceration rates. I am not justifying the actions of a man who lashes out against a woman for being a harridan any more than I would condone a person assaulting a stupid, rude and unprofessional police officer. Each is equally wrong and should be punished. We have ways of addressing police misconduct, and if an officer acts in a provocative manner this is taken into account by the courts. But there is no legal way for men to address female spite. Indigenous people in remote and isolated areas who still have more archaic values and world views, find it particularly difficult to maintain the balance of power dynamics between the sexes without resorting to physical violence when a female is being particularly aggressive and abusive. This is especially true in public. Loss of face for men in those small communities is intolerable. When police come to make an arrest for what suspects see as lashing out against relentless provocation, resistance is common and compounds the problem.
So race-targeted and subjectively applied laws contribute in no small way to the indigenous mindset of victimhood and the perception that the justice system is racist and prejudiced against them. As I said, this perception is not a delusion — there really are different rules for indigenous Australians. You can see where and why the anger grows. The BLM protestors are right about Australia failing to adequately address issues affecting indigenous people, but not in the sense that they would have observers of their protests believe. As long as the Establishment continues to indulge black ‘leaders’ irresponsibly bent on promoting grievance, up to and including justifying violence against police, while simultaneously rationalising black-on-black violence and ignoring glaring facts, things will get a lot worse.
The media, especially the ABC, SBS and NITV, is spinelessly complicit — conformist and self-censoring in its unquestioning acceptance of the Left’s ‘progressive’ values. The most obvious proof of media complicity, inconsistency and mendacity was the reporting of five indigenous deaths that occurred in late May and early June during the peak of the BLM reporting.
The first was the death of an indigenous Mareeba man ‘in police custody’. The actual circumstances: a chap just released from the watchhouse was seen highly intoxicated in town, prompting police to perform a ‘street check’ which sees the individual’s details taken and location noted, a handy record to identify witnesses and potential suspects. While the officers were speaking with him, placing him technically ‘in their custody’, he dropped dead from a massive heart attack. His death was representative of most indigenous deaths in custody, reflecting long-term substance abuse and associated health problems. The officers acted immediately but CPR didn’t work and, despite their best efforts, they were unable to save him.
Equally indicative were four deaths in Townsville. A stolen car carrying five indigenous teens was hooning around when, speeding along Duckworth Street on the wrong side of the road, it crashed into a traffic-light pole. Four juveniles, three females and a male, were thrown from the vehicle and fatally injured. The fourteen-year-old driver survived with only minor injuries.
Google ‘death in custody Mareeba’ and you won’t find much about the heart-attack victim, despite the fact it was technically a ‘black death in custody’ and even though it came at the height of BLM coverage. The teens’ tragic and entirely avoidable deaths would make national news, or so you might think. But no, the fatal crash flickered briefly through the headlines but was soon dropped and forgotten. Just acknowledging and reporting those five deaths and their circumstances would have run completely counter to BLM’s ‘killer cop’ narrative, instead illustrating and highlighting what the real issues are. So these tragedies were swept under the carpet. All in all, the news coverage — or rather, lack of it — validated my suspicion that media reporting of BLM has nothing to do with a search for the truth, nothing to do with addressing black deaths in custody.
It appears the entire Establishment and many outside it have swallowed the false narrative sown by BLM — that to be pro-indigenous is to be anti-police by definition. If you genuinely care about indigenous people and the violence they face, disproportionately from within their own communities, you’ll support police. Also, if you genuinely support police, you’ll call out brutality and misconduct when you see it, as I have. What happened in Aurukun earlier this year, when a man died and law and order broke down amid riots and flames and an exodus of fearful refugees from the violence, should serve as a further reminder that supporting indigenous advancement is synonymous with supporting police.
I WOULD like to think that my life and career demonstrates that being pro-police and pro-indigenous, rather than binary opposites, are one and the same. But it’s equally important to be brutally honest. It is police who do the dirty work — the work social workers, project officers, community counsellors and priests are too afraid, too unskilled, or consider it below their station. I’ve had my life threatened with deadly force. I have caused injuries and have myself been injured. I’ve taken indigenous children away. I’ve sent a lot of indigenous people to jail. I have also failed, faltered, weakened and tired. Police brutality, while overstated does exist. In fact, I’ve done things in the heat of the moment I’ve later regretted because I was scared, just wanted the struggle to end, was motivated by righteous anger or vengeance.
That said, by and large I believe I have contributed to the betterment of indigenous individuals and the collective indigenous community. I took children away from abuse and neglect to give them, if not a shot at a better life, then at least a respite from their misery. I have jailed the bad and hospitalised the mad to remove pathogenic individuals from their communities, giving the decent ones what I hope was an opportunity to flourish. Yes, I’ve made errors, so I can’t say I’m proud of it all. I know what administering justice means, looks like and involves. Administering justice can involve violence. I can tell you that fighting strong men for the cause of good is vastly different from marching in protest, from chanting slogans, from vandalising statues, from blogging and podcasting, from doing interviews on the ABC, from musing about race and identity in a university tutorial.
Twenty years ago I remember being stunned at the indifference of the wider community to the violence and misery I witnessed in the Cape. I attended three murders in three weeks in Aurukun, all of which barely made the inside pages of the local paper. I dealt with chains of suicides in communities where youths in the prime of life and brimming with untapped potential had no hope left to sustain them. The youngest suicide attempt I attended was that of a 10-year-old. I know of a ‘respected elder’ who was left to die with maggot-ridden sores while relatives drank themselves stupid. I reported and investigated sexual abuse. The youngest victim I dealt with was just nine months old and the offender a 14-year-old relative. I can’t listen to Barry White’s song ‘Can’t get enough of your love, baby’ without thinking of that job.
After all this, what I have seen and experienced, I am stunned by the BLM movement’s assurances that it is they who really care about indigenous people. How can such ‘care’ reflect an indifference to suffering? It is worse that that, truth be told. Knowing and accepting and making excuses for the horrors, or not mentioning them at all, amounts to a statement of belief that one can’t expect anything different or better from indigenous people. Free will and individual agency are what separate humans from lesser primates, yet divesting Aborigines of personal responsibility with the intention of explaining away bad behavior actually denies their humanity. This is racism pure and simple, effectively writing off so many indigenous Australian lives and consigning them to the status of second-class citizens who have no control over their own fate. Those who call for Aboriginal people to take responsibility for their actions are those who respect them as being fully human. They have greater faith in the ability of indigenous people to rise above their current lot, greater hope for the future than the deniers and excuse-makers.
The pathological types, including many in the BLM movement, may even seek to perpetuate and exploit indigenous suffering, as having indigenous people dependent on such ‘leaders’ confers power. In a way it’s the same dynamic as addiction. Drug takers and alcoholics come to revere, fear, worship and even, in a perverse and distorted way, to love their suppliers and enablers, seeing them as the good guys. Too many indigenous people are addicted to their own suffering. Their sores and self-inflicted wounds become not something to heal, but something to show to the world. Misery becomes the stock in trade.
Like sorcerers who point the bone, the Left has worked its magic on Aborigines, leaving many unable even to identify friend from foe. Institutionalised racism is repackaged as positive discrimination. Apartheid is re-framed as Aboriginal separatism. The new lie holds that police are natural enemies of indigenous Australia while those who create, fuel, excuse and perpetuate irresponsibility, suffering and dependence get the love. What this erodes is the very idea of the individual, and it encourages purveyors of racial-identitarian black consciousness to hate and despise those who dare think for themselves, people such as Jacinta Price and Anthony Dillon to name but two.
But maybe, just maybe, this zeitgeist will shine a light on things that have haunted me for years, things that I never thought would matter to anyone else. Perhaps I’m guilty of a surfeit of optimism but a clear, objective appraisal of the facts, of the actual and demonstrable truth, might force the liars, charlatans, hypocrites and race hustlers to act like black lives really do matter, rather than putting memes and political narratives to the fore. Maybe, just maybe, all those years working in the dark will mean something, that the suffering I saw and the pain I felt, the shifts that finished in medical clinics, will not be wasted. Maybe, just maybe, if those who care about and respect facts can counter these lies then the truth will set indigenous people free.
But there are powerful obstacles. Many in the BLM movement are bigots plain and simple, and no amount of reasoned argument will bring them into the fold of decency, so it’s impossible to tell where this will end. I suspect there will be a lot more violence, as it seems that the protests will continue until the instigators get what they want — a scared cop lashing out and hurting someone. That’s how you validate a narrative. It isn’t how you seek the truth.
Yet there are precedents that sustain hope. Consider the 2002 ‘death in custody’ of a young Torres Strait Island man who was one of several pursued by police in a stolen car. The car stopped and the occupants fled on foot, with one youth running into long grass. The pursuing police vehicle skidded to a halt and hit a large, heavy gate that swung violently and hit the young man in the head as he hid in long grass, killing him. The police didn’t know at the time and nor did his co-offenders, as his body wasn’t found until the following morning. Many Islanders were understandably angry and wanted answers. But they waited for the results of the coroner’s report, which cleared the police. I had been out of Thursday Island for two years, but still received phone calls from friends who were really upset and, yes, angry, but they accepted the youth would still be alive if he had not been riding in a stolen car and had submitted to arrest rather than fleeing. They accepted there was no malice or intent on the part of police, and the community as a whole showed restraint.
So it is possible for an indigenous community to suffer a tragic death in custody without coppers getting hurt or anything being set aflame. It’s important to note a couple of dynamics that were at work in the Thursday Island incident. The media didn’t lie, nor the legal establishment, and concerned people sought the truth, rather than ignoring facts in order to endorse the narrative of killer cops and indigenous victimhood.
There is this ancient Jewish idea — teshuva , literally translated as ‘returning’ — which holds that despair, remorse and grief can empower us to break the cycle of failure, that even willful transgressions can be turned into merits. Christians likewise know that sin comes before redemption. Maybe we can get through this and maybe, just maybe, good will come. But before anything else, the lies must stop. White people in blue shirts aren’t the problem. Rather, they are an integral part of the solution.
Martin Lynch is the nom de plume of a serving Queensland police officer. He contributed ‘Why Alice Can’t Get Ahead‘ to Quadrant‘s October 2019 edition