Ku Klux Klan jibe lands professor in jail

By: Tony Koch, Ali Lawlor

AUSTRALIA'S most prominent Aboriginal health expert suffered spinal injuries when she was thrown into the back of a police wagon after telling six officers they were acting like the Ku Klux Klan.
Professor Gracelyn Smallwood was taken to the Townsville watchhouse, strip-searched and imprisoned for 3 1/2 hours after she intervened on behalf of an Aboriginal youth and Aboriginal elder Renarta Prior.
Professor Smallwood was not told why she had been arrested until she was released at 5.30am.
She said she was not allowed to call a Legal Aid officer or members of her own family.
The police charge sheet alleges that she used insulting words to Constable Louisa Egerton, namely: ``You part of the Ku Klux Klan, the KKK''.
Professor Smallwood said she would fight the charge in court on Friday. She also said she would refer the incident to the Criminal Justice Commission.
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman said Professor Smallwood's arrest and strip search was a serious breach of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act.
Mr O'Gorman said strip searching, particularly females, for public order offences was ``utterly unacceptable''.
``But if it wasn't for the stature of Professor Gracelyn Smallwood it wouldn't even rate a mention.''
A medical certificate from Professor Smallwood's GP states that after her arrest she had headache, neckache, backache with soft tissue tenderness and decreased movement of her cervical spine consistent with whiplash injury. She had been required to wear a neckbrace since the incident.
A police media spokesman said he could not comment as the incident was before a court. But he said the advantages of strip searching had been canvassed at CJC hearings last week.
The CJC was told prisoners could harm themselves or others with items smuggled into cells which had included syringes and a live bullet.
Professor Smallwood, adviser on rural and indigenous health matters to Health Minister Wendy Edmond, said last night she and other Aboriginal women had adopted their usual practice of going to the Sovereign Hotel in Flinders St, Townsville late on Friday night to drive intoxicated people home.
A fight started and six police cars, including the dog squad, arrived and several people were arrested.
Continued Page 2
Klan jibe lands professor in jail
From Page 1
Professor Smallwood said a youth, who was not involved, crossed the road, was grabbed by police and treated roughly.
Mrs Prior went to help the youth but a police woman ordered her to get away.
Professor Smallwood said she told the police ``to stop their treatment of the lad and Mrs Prior'' and said they were acting like the Ku Klux Klan.
``A blonde policewoman ran in and grabbed me, twisted my arms up behind my back and threw me into the back of a utility with a cage,'' she said.
There had been an Aboriginal girl in the van and it then sped off.
``We had nothing to hold on to and were tossed around. We called out to slow down, but the driver sped up, and then stopped suddenly three times at lights, tossing us all around,'' she said.
``I couldn't breathe because of chest pain. I was in a serious car accident 20 years ago and asked for an asthma puffer.''
Professor Smallwood said she was refused a puffer for 30 minutes and strip searched at the watchhouse.
Professor Smallwood said the cell toilet was blocked and filthy and a sanitary pad was floating in the water.
She said the police accused her of stealing a purse after they discovered a professor's ID and Mastercard inside.