A short documentary history of the Block in Redfern
Material from the Gary Foley Collection

Aborigines' Protest in Sydney Leaves 40 Injured

New York Times, The (NY) - Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Author: AP

Abstract: Rioters in Aborigine neighborhood of Sydney set fire to train station and pelt police with gasoline bombs during nine-hour street battle over death of teen-ager; police deny chasing 17-year-old Thomas Hickey, who was impaled on fence when he fell from bicycle (S)

Rioters set fire to a train station and pelted police officers with gasoline bombs in an Aborigine neighborhood here during a nine-hour street battle on Monday that began after a teenager died, reportedly while being chased by officers.

The rioting in the district, Redfern, left 40 officers injured and highlighted continuing tensions between Aborigines and the authorities.

The unrest followed the death of a 17-year-old Aborigine, Thomas Hickey, who was impaled on a fence when he fell from his bicycle. His mother said officers were chasing the youth, which the police deny.

Hundreds of officers in riot gear doused protesters with high-pressure water hoses during the fighting. The hospitalized officers mostly suffered broken bones. There was no immediate word on injuries to rioters.

Four people were arrested and charged with involvement in the fighting. More arrests are expected.

Premier Bob Carr of New South Wales ordered an investigation and said the state coroner would look into Mr. Hickey's death and any possible police involvement.

In the rioting, about 100 attackers set fire to Redfern railway station and to a car, and smashed windows. "They burned out one vehicle and they in fact were throwing Molotov cocktails both at police and at Redfern railway station during the course of the riot," said the assizapstant police commissioner, Bob Waites.

An Aborigine leader, Lyle Munro, said anger had been simmering long before Mr. Hickey's death. "These young people are very, very upset about what happened to this young man, and they're very upset about what's happening to their young friends on a continual basis," he said in an interview on a Sydney radio station, 2UE. "It was a preventable death, like most of the deaths of young Aboriginal people today."

Mr. Munro accused the police of harassing people who live in a squalid grid of near-derelict houses known as the Block. "This is an everyday occurrence, the harassment and intimidation of our young people," he said.

Aborigines make up 400,000 of Australia's 20 million people. The houses in the Block were bought for Aborigines in the 1970's by the federal government in an attempt to alleviate homelessness and other social problems among them.

Edition: Late Edition - Final
Section: Foreign Desk
Page: 5
Page Column: 1