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Black Lives Matter rally in Kempsey kicks off weekend of action

Hundreds turned up to protest Indigenous deaths in police custody.

Photograph: Jazzlyn Breen.

Hundreds of Black Lives Matter activists marched on Dunghutti country in Kempsey on Friday to demand justice for Indigenous lives lost in police custody. 

The Kempsey rally marked the start of a national weekend of Black Lives Matter action, focused primarily on the issue of Black deaths in custody. The rally, headed by the family of the late David Dungay Jnr, a Dunghutti man, is one of the only rallies of its kind to be held in Kempsey in recent years. 

David Dungay Jnr was killed in police custody at Long Bay Prison in 2015. A diabetic, he was eating a packet of biscuits when his cell was stormed and he was held down and sedated by five security guards. Mirroring the case of George Floyd in the US, some of David’s last words were “I can’t breathe”. 

None of the guards present at the time of David Dungay Jnr’s death has faced disciplinary action, and the courts have since closed the case. 

David Dungay Jnr’s mother, Leetona Dungay, addressed the crowd in Kempsey, calling for justice for her son.

“I want it opened up again… I’m pushing this case forward”.”  

There have been over 430 Indigenous deaths in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody in 1991. None of the inquiries into these deaths has resulted in a conviction. 

Paul Silva, nephew of David Dungay Jnr, thanked the crowd for coming, remarking that there “hasn’t been a movement like this in years”. In a media release posted by the Dungay family, Silva provided comment on how his family has reacted to the recent upswell of support for the Black Lives Matter Movement.  

“When my family saw the footage of George Floyd being murdered, gasping ‘I can’t breathe’ we felt it deeply. My uncle David Dungay Jnr was killed in the same way. Both men were held down by racist authorities who refused to listen to their cries for help. With the Black Lives Matter movement we have never seen so much support for the campaign against Black deaths in custody and never had so many people calling for justice for my uncle.”

Very little police presence could be seen as the rally continued with an impromptu march around Kempsey’s main streets. 

Cries of “they say accident, we say murder” was chanted by the crowd, echoing speakers’ calls for justice for Indigenous people killed in police custody. An actively supportive local crowd showed their support from their cars, holding up fists and yelling “Black lives matter” as the rally blocked traffic. 

Rallies have and will continue to be held across the country, in Brisbane, Darwin, Adelaide, Perth, Newcastle and Sydney.