Symbol clash at Palm cop's trial

By: Tony Koch

A CLASH of wristbands will mark the start of Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley's trial in the Townsville Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Queensland police in recent weeks have adopted blue wristbands to support Sergeant Hurley, who is charged with assault and manslaughter over the death in custody of Palm Islander Mulrunji Doomadgee.
In response, Aboriginal groups yesterday announced that they hadproduced their own wristbands -- a yellow design with the inscription ``Justice Now, Mulrunji 19-11-04''.
Doomadgee was arrested by Sergeant Hurley on the morning of November 19, 2004, for swearing, and shortly afterwards was found dead in his cell.
The charges were laid after an inquest.
The Queensland Police Union supported Sergeant Hurley with state-wide meetings and protests.
Officers accepted a Police Union recommendation that $5 blue wristbands be worn to signify support for their colleague.
In recent weeks, Aboriginal groups have signalled their displeasure at seeing police, including prosecutors in courts, wearing wristbands that are not part of any official uniform.
Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson has not issued a directive that the bands not be worn. Neither has Police Minister Judy Spence, whomarched with the police in one of their protest rallies in Brisbane.
National Socialist Alliance indigenous spokesman Sam Watson said yesterday the new yellow wristbands were being worn to support the campaign for justice for all Aboriginal deaths-in-custody victims and to counter the Police Union action.
``These bands will be our way of showing the state police that we won't be intimidated or silenced by police rallies and threats by police to march on state parliament,'' Mr Watson said.
``We do not believe it is appropriate that police should be allowed to wear those blue wristbands in support of an officer charged over the death of a person who was in custody when he died.
``We will be at the court in strength to ensure that the jury and the witnesses will not feel intimidated or pressured by the huge police presence that has been promised by the authorities.''
Mr Watson, an author and poet, said the matter must be decided on its merits.
``The entire Aboriginal community and supporters of justice throughout Australia and the world will follow this trial very closely,'' he said.
The trial, before judge Peter Dutney, is expected to run for twoweeks.