The family of David Dungay Jr has sent a direct message to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, warning him he won’t “get any peace” until they see justice.
Mr Dungay was 26 when he died in Sydney’s Long Bay Jail in 2015 after repeatedly screaming “I can’t breathe” as five guards pinned him flat on the floor.
A coroner in 2019 found the prone restraint was a contributory factor but cleared the five prison officers of malicious intent.
Obvious and tragic similarities have been drawn between Mr Dungay’s death and the death of African-American man George Floyd, who died last month after a police officer kept his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck despite him repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”.
Appearing on Today this morning, Mr Dungay’s mum Leetona and sister Christine said seeing the video of Mr Floyd dying was “horrific”.
“The pain – we felt their pain when we saw George Floyd being held down, screaming, ‘I can’t breathe.’ And we are all the way in Australia,” Christine said.
“I just want to say one thing. This goes out to Scott Morrison — I hope he is watching, too.
“You sat there, you made a comment that you did not want USA issues brought to Australia.
“Come on, brother, they have been here. It is here. It has always been here, the racism. All the deaths in custody.
“(Police) are supposed to protect and serve. You give them that gun to do that. But when they kill our people, you turn around, you take that gun, you put more bullets in it and you give it back.
“You do not ever, ever hold them accountable. And that’s why we stand here today. Me and my mother, still fighting, five years later. And believe me, all the families, we are still suffering.
“And I’m telling you, until we get justice, brother, you are not going to get any peace. Because we are going to keep fighting.”
Mr Dungay’s mum Leetona questioned why it had taken the death of another man to trigger attention around her son’s death.
“Australia has been thrown under the carpet for five years, until this had to happen to another black man. And it happened to be over in America, you know. And it is not right the government what it does,” she said.
Christine and Leetona led the Black Lives Matter protest in Sydney on Saturday when more than 20,000 people called for an end to racism and police brutality.
In Sydney, protesters waved signs saying “Police the police” and “Same s*** different soil”, while the crowd chanted “I can’t breathe”, the final words of Mr Floyd and Mr Dungay.
At 4.32pm, demonstrators knelt en masse throughout Sydney’s CBD and held a fist aloft to acknowledge the 432 Aboriginal people who have died in custody since 1991.
Amnesty International national director Sam Klintworth earlier said it was wrong to think Australia was “free of the kind of racialised violence making international headlines”.
“Australia has a shameful record in its treatment of Indigenous people in custody,” she said.
“(It) has compounded the trauma of dispossession by allowing kids as young as 10 to be locked up, condemning them to the brutalising effect of the youth detention system which sees children caught in the quicksand of the justice system, instead of with family in community.”