Confronting BLM question stuns Project hosts
David Dungay's relatives have posed a powerful question to The Project panel after years of fighting passionately for justice for their beloved family member.
"Where have you been for the last four and a half years?"
Speaking to the panel on Tuesday night shortly after Sydney's Black Lives Matter protest was shut down by police within minutes, Mr Dungay's cousin Lizzy Jarrett said her family felt "intimidated" and "utterly disgusted" by the response, which saw 400 officers against a group of around 40 protesters, resulting in six arrests.
During the interview, Lizzy, flanked by Mr Dungay's mother Leetona Dungay and another family member with their fists up in solidarity, questioned why, only after a similar death in custody overseas, have others suddenly flocked to support their cause - singling out The Project.
David Dungay, a 26-year-old Dunghutti man who died in Long Bay jail in 2015, has become a symbol of the Australian Black Lives Matter movement after protests were initially sparked by the death of US man George Floyd in May.
Mr Dungay, from Kempsey, died in the Sydney jail on 29 December 2015 after guards rushed his cell to stop him eating biscuits, dragged him to another cell, then held him face down and had him injected with a sedative. Before he died he said 12 times that he could not breathe.
As protests ramped up across the United States after Mr Floyd's death, Indigenous activists and voices were quick to point out the similarities to various Aboriginal deaths in custody cases here as well noting that sometimes it is easier to look abroad then closer to home.
While we witness the outrage happening in the US, we can never forget the injustice of this nation that is also built on genocide and the disposition of Black bodies.— Rafeif (@RafeifIsmail) May 30, 2020
It's always easier to look outside rather than our own backyard. https://t.co/QAt18HvuMV
On Tuesday, family members of Mr Dungay's gathered to protest against black deaths in custody, vowing to charge on and demand justice despite the protest being ruled unlawful amid COVID-19 restrictions.
Speaking to the panel, Lizzy said her family felt "intimidated" by police today.
"There was only 10 immediate family members of David Dungay protesting at The Domain to be met by 500 NSW police force which made my family feel intimidated," she said.
"Four years ago no-one knew the name of David Dungay and now someone overseas dies in parallel circumstances and everyone knows my cousin's names and we are the ones to face more police brutality after you watched the way my cousin died. Today's police response was utterly disgusting," she added.
When asked how police acted towards the group during the short protest, she said they were hostile when protesters tried to co-operate and ensure COVID-19 restrictions were met.
"As soon as we tried to ask the police how they would help us today have our small gathering with COVID safely, we were smashed.
"The NSW police closed down our COVID safety stall as we entered The Domain," she revealed.
"There was an actual stall there with many hand sanitisers, plenty of masks to be given out to any attendee who did want to come and stand with us today and NSW police decided to close the stall down. So I ask, does NSW police give a damn about COVID safety?," to which Carrie said she hoped police would be watching.
"We appreciate your time tonight and, we will follow this closely," Carrie added.
Responding to the promise, Lizzy pointed out that the same support has not been extended in the past: "Well, that's nice to know, Project, but on behalf of my family, I have one statement I'd like to add: Where have you been for the last four and a half years?"
The Project panel appeared momentarily speechless before thanking the family for their time.
Tuesday's rally was ruled unlawful by the NSW Supreme Court on the weekend, which was upheld at a last-minute appeal yesterday.
Supporters said they would march anyway while observing social distancing and other health and safety protocols like wearing masks.
"Stand on your own. Stand in a group that is smaller than 20," protest organiser Paddy Gibson said yesterday.
"It's not illegal to have your lunch in the park in the city of Sydney still even under the COVID-19 pandemic … we'll be continuing to raise our voice for justice."
That figure was way down on the tens of thousands that went to the Black Lives Matter rallies on June 6, which shut down the Sydney CBD and other Australian cities.
As noon neared, about 40 protesters appeared on the soggy grass of The Domain. They were easily outnumbered by up to 400 officers scattered around the park.
By 11.50am the protest was over.
NSW Police confirmed six people were arrested. Three men aged 40, 37 and 22 and two women aged 50 and 23 were arrested and each issued with a $1000 penalty infringement notice for breaching public health orders, before being issued move-on directions.
A third woman, aged 25, was arrested and issued a criminal infringement notice for offensive language.
Speaking on The Project tonight, Lizzy Jarrett said there were "no fines or arrests" against Mr Dungay's relatives.
"They are making statements now that there were six arrests. There were no arrests. There were six detaineeships and no fines and no arrests to put against my family and our cause," she said.
The Project airs Sunday to Friday from 6.30pm on Channel 10.
Originally published as Confronting question stuns Project hosts