6 Aug 2007

When Aborigines attack the police

I don't know anything about the events, but we have today on smh.com.au an article, 'Rival Aboriginal gangs riot in NT'. One might think that the story is about inter- or intra-communal violence, and that is certainly how it is presented, but look at the detail:

Rioting between rival gangs at the troubled Aboriginal community of Wadeye has again erupted, resulting in minor injuries to police officers and two arrests.

Additional police reinforcements were called to the Northern Territory community, about 400km south-west of Darwin, over the weekend to try and quell the violence.

Fighting between about 200 people escalated on Sunday night when a police patrol was attacked and the car pelted with rocks.

Well, we hear it began with fighting among Aborigines, but the arrests that were made were all in connection with Aborigines attacking the police. This is in fact the typical pattern of the criminalisation of black people in Australia and of Aboriginal interactions with the police – Aborigines are typically not arrested for the crimes which the police were allegedly investigating, but for their interactions with the police. Given that the only arrests in this case resulted from the police intervention (this is not spelt out in the report, but we have two arrests and two police injured . . .), and that the police intervention seems to have resulted in an 'escalation' of the violence, is it not unreasonable to suggest that said intervention was not particularly helpful? Of course, it depends what said intervention was designed to do. The police presence in Aboriginal communities clearly has nothing to do with helping those communities qua communities, and everything with keeping them downtrodden.