News Indigenous Indigenous death in custody sparks protests, police accused of ‘aggressive’ arrests

Indigenous death in custody sparks protests, police accused of ‘aggressive’ arrests

Black Lives Matter rally in Brisbane.
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Police have been accused of “aggressive” behaviour as they arrested and charged 18 people at a Black Lives Matter protest over black deaths in custody that caused traffic disruptions in Brisbane’s city centre.

The protest came after a 48-year-old Indigenous woman was found dead in her cell at the city watch house yesterday.

Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd said this afternoon a post-mortem examination indicated the woman died of natural causes.

This morning, about 100 demonstrators gathered outside the Magistrates Court, before moving to police headquarters, and on to the watch house.

Traffic was blocked and scuffles broke out between police and the protestors.

Greens Brisbane City councillor Jonathan Sri said he wanted police to release more detail about what happened inside the watch house.

“There has still been no explanation and police still haven’t released video footage from the cell where she was being held,” Cr Sri said.

“People were peacefully protesting that death in custody and then without warning or negotiation, aggressive officers started randomly arresting people.”

The woman had been in the watch house for several days after a court appearance was awaiting transfer to a correctional centre.

Police said she had been remanded in custody on Monday after appearing in the Magistrates Court on drug and theft charges.

She had been arrested and charged on Sunday.

Police from the Ethical Standards Command are investigating the woman’s death but it is understood medical issues might have played a factor.

Protesters gathered outside police headquarters in Brisbane demanding answers over the death of an Indigenous woman. Photo: ABC/Rory McGahan

‘Death was by natural causes’

Assistant Commissioner Codd said the watch house had an extensive range of measures to prevent deaths in custody.

“We have robust systems in place in the Brisbane City watch house in terms of medical care, health assistance, CCTV cameras set up through the entire watch house,” he said.

“[We have] a whole range of checks and balances that have been developed in partnership with Murri Watch.

“With health practitioners, with youth justice workers, [which are] around preventing issues that could lead to deaths and serious injuries to any persons in our custody.

Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd says post-mortem results indicate the woman died of natural causes. Photo: ABC News/Lucas Hill

“Tragically, that has not prevented a death of a woman in the watch house yesterday.

Assistant Commissioner Codd said the post-mortem examination “appears, as the circumstances that we found, to indicate that the death was by natural causes.”

“The detail of any underlying health scenarios or situations related to the woman will be examined in a very detailed fashion,” he said.

“The Ethical Standards Command are operating on behalf of the coroner in examining the circumstances of the death.

“This is being overseen as it is a regular process by the independent Crime and Corruption Commission.”