2004 Redfern riots
The 2004 Redfern Riots took place on the evening of Saturday the 14th, February 2004, in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern, sparked by the death of a young man named Thomas Hickey by disputed police intervention.
Thomas Hickey's Death
Thomas 'T.J.' Hickey, a 17-year-old Indigenous Australian, was riding home on his bicycle from his mother's house when he supposedly spotted a police car and believed it was chasing him. There was an outstanding arrest warrant in his name, but police have consistently maintained that the patrol car was searching for a different individual, wanted in connection with a violent bag snatch at Redfern railway station earlier the same day.
Shortly thereafter, Hickey lost control of his bicycle while turning a corner and was impaled in a 2.5-metre high fence, causing penetrating injuries of the neck and chest. According to police, they arrived at the scene quickly, but were unable to save him as "the injury was probably non-survivable."
The Hickey family and supporters fiercely dispute this version of events, claiming that witnesses saw Hickey's bike clipped by the police car, thus propelling him onto the fence. This claim was supported by the testimony of two Aboriginal Liaison Officers to a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the death, though neither of the Officers were present at the scene. Despite calls to re-open the coronial inquest, the New South Wales government has refused to do so.
Doubt remains over the veracity of the evidence presented during the case. One of the Aboriginal Police Liaison Officers who gave testimony for the Hickey family, Paul James Wilkinson, later admitted to the murder of his pregnant girlfriend five months prior to making his allegations. Wilkinson pleaded guilty to murder on 13 November 2008, judged as being 'well-versed in deception and motivated by self-interest' when receiving a 28-year custodial sentence.
While friends and relatives gathered at The Block to grieve, fliers were distributed blaming police for the death. On the evening of 14 February, Aboriginal youths gathered from across Sydney to the Redfern area, and when police closed the Eveleigh Street entrance to the station, the crowd became violent and began to throw bottles, bricks, live fireworks and Molotov cocktails. The violence escalated into a full-scale riot around The Block, during which Redfern railway station was briefly alight, suffering superficial damage. The riot continued into the early morning, until police used fire brigade water hoses to disperse the crowd. Total damages include a torched car (previously stolen from a western suburb), and 40 police officers injured.
In 2005, the University of Technology Sydney's students' association donated a plaque with TJ's portrait, with an inscription reads: "On the 14th February, 2004, TJ Hickey, aged 17, was impaled upon the metal fence above, arising from a police pursuit. The young man died as a result of his wounds the next day. In our hearts you will stay TJ." Local police, the NSW government and the Department of Housing have refused to allow the plaque to be placed on the wall below the fence where Hickey was impaled unless the words "police pursuit" were changed to "tragic accident", which the family has refused to do.
The Hickey's parents, Gail and Ian Hickey, divorced in late 2006. Hickey supporters also claim that police have continued to harass the family, including the arrest of several family members and friends on 4 September 2010.
- Abernethy, J: Report by the NSW State Coroner into deaths in custody/police operations 2004, page 71. ISSN No: 1323-6423.
- "Commemoration of Death of T. J. Hickey". Lee Rhiannon MLC. 18 May 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
- Jackson, R. "'Inquiry into Issues Relating to Redfern/Waterloo - Submission No 91, page 4.".
- "Paul James Wilkinson admits to killing lover Kylie Labouchardiere". Daily Telegraph. 24 November 2008. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- "Paul Wilkinson ineligible for parole until April 2031 for murdering girlfriend". The Australian Newspaper. 22 May 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- "Rallies demand truth about TJ Hickey's death". Green Left Weekly. 23 February 2005. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
- "Police officer denies lying in Hickey case". dailytelegraph.com.au. 24 May 2011. Retrieved 5 September 2011.