News State NT News Thousands march in Alice Springs to protest fatal police shooting

Thousands march in Alice Springs to protest fatal police shooting

rally police shooting alice springs
Thousands joined the rally through the streets of Alice Springs. Photo: ABC
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Thousands of people have marched through Alice Springs to protest against the death of 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker.

Among the crowds were hundreds from the remote community of Yuendumu, where Mr Walker died at the weekend.

Protesters flocked to the lawns between the local court and police station, brandishing signs and chanting “justice for Walker”.

Women with white paint across their foreheads, a cultural way to express “sorry business” after someone has died, wept.

Speeches in English and Warlpiri began with a plea for caution on social media to avoid negatively influencing the court case now under way.

Late on Wednesday, Northern Territory Police constable Zach Rolfe, 28, was charged with murder over Mr Walker’s death.

Constable Rolfe, 28, appeared at an out-of-session local court hearing on Wednesday night, where he was granted bail and suspended with pay. He is due at Alice Springs court on December 19.

NT Police Association president Paul McCue said Constable Rolfe would plead not guilty.

“Whilst we acknowledge the tragic circumstances of the event, the member has made it clear that he will plead not guilty and will vigorously contest the charge,” he said.

“He, like all, has the presumption of innocence in his favour.”

Mr Walker died after he was shot at Yuendumu, 300 kilometres from Alice Springs, on Saturday night when two police officers went there to arrest him for breaches of his suspended sentence.

His family and Yuendumu residents asked why the police officer had fired his gun three times instead of using a taser to provide an electric shock or pepper spray.

They were also not told about his death until Sunday, having believed overnight that he was still alive.

NT Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Michael White said after the shooting that Mr Walker had lunged at an officer and stabbed him with a weapon, which sources had said were scissors, and a struggled ensued.

His family disputes that version.

The officers had body-worn cameras that have been viewed by NT police internal investigators.

There were no medical staff to initially help after the shooting as Yuendumu Health Centre workers evacuated earlier on Saturday due to safety concerns.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service also delayed its response amid safety concerns before it was called off because the young man died.

Staff from Yuelamu Health Centre, 60 kilometres away, were injured after going to Yuendumu following the shooting and assisting in pronouncing Mr Walker dead.

They were injured in community unrest and required evacuation to receive treatment for lacerations and bruises at the Alice Springs Hospital.

Emotions are running high among Indigenous people in the NT and around the nation and the death has been a flashpoint for anger over the treatment of Aboriginal people by police, including deaths in custody, high prison rates, past massacres and the Stolen Generations.

In Alice Springs on Thursday, Warlpiri elder Ned Hargraves thanked everyone who had taken part in the protests, on behalf of Mr Walker’s family.

Many who attended welcomed the news that a police officer had been charged with murder. But there was also disappointment that the constable had been granted bail and suspended with pay.

Jeremiah Walker spoke about his sorrow at the loss of his nephew, thoughts echoed by Mr Walker’s grandmother Peggy Brown.

Ken Wyatt, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, visited Alice Springs on Thursday to speak to community members and other locals.

-with AAP