On Friday 13, Redfern Police led by Superintendent Luke Freudenstein won a court action to reduce the length and the impact of the 11th TJ Hickey remembrance march. It was fought tooth and nail by the president of the Indigenous Social Justice Association, Ray Jackson.
Last year more than 700 rights advocates and supporters marched in a passionate but relatively peaceful affair. I know – I was there. Two minor incidences during that rally were deescalated by responsible democratic showdowns. Nevertheless, Mr Jackson said that last year he was told by Superintendent Freudenstein there would be no more marches for TJ. Mr Jackson responded, “Yes, there will be.”
Eleven years ago, on Valentine’s Day, TJ was pursued on his bicycle through Redfern by police, losing control and so impaled to death on a fence post. Riots soon followed. Every year on Valentine’s Day, TJ’s family, friends and supporters remember him with a march. The day before the march the police stressed the family and friends with the court action.
“The police sought at first to have the march prohibited altogether. Then they decided to go for a scale down. They did not want the march proceeding into the city. They said if it got to Circular Quay it would be unsafe, that provocateurs and outsiders would infiltrate and generate potential risks to community,” said Mr Jackson.
“This has never been the case in any of the previous marches and rallies.”
“It reached the ridiculous with experts on crowd crushing called in. It was a tsunami of bullshit,” said Mr Jackson.
“The coppers threw in the ‘olive wreath’ of a lesser march. They said we could start at the fence line where TJ was killed and march only to The Block (in Redfern).”
Justice Schmidt sought a guarantee from Mr Jackson that there would be no risks posed. Naturally, the right-minded Mr Jackson could not provide this.
“How can anyone provide a guarantee? When I asked the prosecution if there had ever been any arrests, or if anyone had been hurt or if there had been any property damage in any of the previous marches he responded ‘No’. That should have been the basis of everything, not what is potential.”
“The police wanted us to control all the groups who opportunistically drive their agendas in marches and rallies. As much as some of us don’t like this we cannot censor others. The anarchist group, Black Rose, much against the family’s wishes does come with its banners of ‘cop killers’ and ‘fuck the police’ but what can we do other than express our preference that they do not bring these banners and instead respect the wishes of TJ’s family? We should not be held hostage to any of this by the police.”
NSW MLA David Shoebridge did as he does every year and marched with the family of TJ Hickey.
“Since when do the police become the arbiter of what is written on banners?”
Dr Shoebridge condemned the surprisingly heavy police presence.
Mr Jackson said, “The police presence was disgracefully higher than last year. We were only 200 marchers and yet it appeared every copper in Sydney was in Redfern. The riot squads, the lot of them.”
“I felt for TJ’s mum, Gail. Gail Hickey was an emotional heap, breaking down in tears.”
“So we marched, 200 of us, from the fence line along the park we now call TJ Hickey Park to The Block, but there were still police driven dramas.”
“They would not let us march past Redfern Police Station as we did last year where we paused for three of our speakers.”
Last year, those three speakers were Dr Shoebridge, Nyungah Elder Graham Merritt and myself. It was passionate but civil, no cause for any alarm. But this year there would be no pause at the Redfern Police Station.
“We were stopped and sent down another street. Gail agreed and we followed Gail’s wishes.”
“The anarchists did join in and unfurled a banner that pissed the police off, including ‘Cops killed TJ’. The police stopped them and took their banner. Another banner was also pulled off them by police but I didn’t see what it had written on it.”
The march finished up at Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy which too is under threat after 9 months of resistance. The Aboriginal Housing Company’s Mick Mundine has threatened to soon issue an eviction notice. The rally’s speakers included mother Gail Hickey, family members, Ray Jackson, Dr Shoebridge and Raul Bassi.
Dr Shoebridge said, “We are here for the family as we are each year.”
Mr Jackson said, “And we will continue coming each year, to the day of our last breaths, for TJ, for the family, for all Aboriginal injustices.”
Ms Hickey said, “TJ was a beautiful boy.”
Outside Redfern Police Station, last year