2005 Macquarie Fields riots

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The Macquarie Fields riots were a series of disturbances in southwest Sydney in February 2005 which were referred to as a riot by both the Parliament of New South Wales and the media.

Trigger event[edit]

The riots were sparked by a high speed police pursuit on 25 February through the Glenquarie housing estate in the South West Sydney suburb of Macquarie Fields. The chase resulted in the driver, 20-year-old Jesse Kelly, crashing the stolen vehicle into a tree and killing his two passengers, 17-year-old Dylan Raywood and 19-year-old Matthew Robertson. The trio had been under electronic surveillance for several days beforehand.[1] Certain circumstances around the riots including the fatal police pursuit in a low-income area were seen to be a repeat of the riots that took place in Redfern, New South Wales during the previous year.[2]

The accident sparked protests and accusations of police impropriety after Kelly's aunt Deborah falsely claimed police had rammed the car prior to the crash. Kelly eventually adopted the accusation, which was untrue.[3]

New South Wales state Premier Bob Carr mobilised hundreds of police, including heavily armed riot squads into the area. The violence that followed lasted four nights, involving at least 300 residents clashing with police. The rioters hurled rocks, bottles, bricks, petrol bombs, and set cars alight, injuring several officers.[4][5] During a Parliamentary inquiry nine months later, NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney stated that the violence during the incident was not a riot when compared to incidents in Los Angeles or Paris, referring to the distinction between "disturbance" and "riot" as defined by Los Angeles Police Department police chief Bill Bratton,[5][6] who had been visiting Australia at the time of the disturbances.

Criticism of response[edit]

The police were criticised at the time for not acting to quell the disturbances quickly enough, with some arguing the riots could have been ended in their first day had a more aggressive stance been adopted. The so-called 'soft' approach by police was put down to downsizing and a lack of training within the NSW Police Force that inhibited their ability to contain the ringleaders effectively.[5] The police eventually made 55 arrests, including that of Jesse Kelly, who had fled the scene of the fatal car crash which preceded the riots.

Social issues[edit]

The suburb of Macquarie Fields suffered from a high rate of unemployment rate of 11.3 percent, more than twice the National average.[7] Of its 4,600 homes, 1,500 are housing commission projects and home to low-income and disadvantaged families. Criticisms have been made about this controversial cul de sac style urban planning that left many residents with very little privacy.

Charges and sentences[edit]

In October 2006, Jesse Kelly was formally charged after admitting two counts of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death and was sentenced to 5 years jail.[8] In the same month a coronial inquiry officially cleared New South Wales Police of any responsibility for the riot. His aunt Deborah Kelly, who started the rumors that sparked the riots,[9] was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice and with concealing a serious indictable offence.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Australia: Macquarie Fields: the political issues - Statement by the Socialist Equality Party Australia 9 March 2005". Socialist Equality Party Australia (Wsws.org). 2005-03-09. Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  2. ^ "Macquarie Fields Riots". Matter of Public Importance. Parliament of New South Wales. 2005-05-01. Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  3. ^ a b Justin Norrie, Malcolm Brown and Neil McMahon (10 March 2005). "Fugitive Jesse Kelly arrested". Sydney Morning Herald (Smh.com.au). Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  4. ^ "Riots break out in Macquarie Fields". Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Abc.net.au). 2005-02-28. Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  5. ^ a b c "Moroney defends himself and Macquarie Fields response". Sydney Morning Herald (Smh.com.au). AAP. 2005-03-13. Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  6. ^ "Macquarie Fields 'not a riot'". Sydney Morning Herald (Smh.com.au). AAP. 2005-12-05. Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  7. ^ "Australian Bureau of Statistics". Abs.gov.au. Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  8. ^ Kamper, Angela (14 October 2006). "Man who sparked riots jailed". The Daily Telegraph (Australia). Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  9. ^ Braithwaite, David (17 October 2007). "A road to nowhere but death and jail". Sydney Morning Herald (Smh.com.au). Retrieved 2014-05-22.