Leading Article: Race, Riots and an Australian National Disgrace

The Independent (London, England), February 17, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Leading Article: Race, Riots and an Australian National Disgrace


RACE RIOTS, however suddenly they may seem to erupt, never come completely unheralded. The violence that broke out in the Sydney suburb of Redfern at the weekend had at least two causes. The immediate trigger was the violent death of a young aboriginal man, impaled on a metal fence. But it was the broader experience which encouraged the local population automatically to blame the police. Poverty, alcohol, drugs and weeks of stifling heat did the rest.

The result was Sydney's worst race riot for years. The local railway station was destroyed, houses were vandalised and more than 40 police were injured. No fewer than three official inquiries have been set up to establish how the young man died and whether the police were involved. Some local people say he was being pursued by police and that the chase precipitated the accident which caused his death.

It is, of course, essential to find out the facts of the case and avoid any rush to judgement. The reality is, however, that as far as the local, mainly aboriginal, population is concerned, minds have already been made up and another chapter has been written in the history of Australia's lamentable race relations.

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Leading Article: Race, Riots and an Australian National Disgrace
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