I Can’t Breathe

CN: Police brutality, racism.
Shaye Windsor
Volunteer Journalist
2 July 2020

The outrage surrounding the deaths of unarmed Black people, like that of Minneapolis man George Floyd, has triggered worldwideaction. Huge numbers of people have been inspired to march across cities across the globe calling for justice for First Nations peoples and against police brutality.

In Australia, the huge rallies have a keen focus after over 400 Black deaths in custody since 1991, like that of David Dungay Jr. in 2015.

David Dungay was a Dunghutti man from Kempsey who died at age 26. His early life was tough, but he was very loved by his close-knit family. He enjoyed schooling, music and was an excellent sportsman.

The Coroner’s Inquest into David’s death found “that continuing the knee ride (a guard’s heavy knee in his back) in such circumstances was inconsistent with the provisions of the Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) Operations Procedures Manual (OPM) and the application of such additional force was unwarranted.”

The National Justice Project has been working with the Dungay family in their demands for justice that seek:

  1. Safework NSW to prosecute Justice Health and the NSW Dept of Corrective Services;
  2. The NSW DPP to investigate whether charges could be laid against the prison officers involved; and
  3. The Health Care Complaints Commission to investigate the conduct of the medical personnel at Long Bay Prison Hospital on the night that David died, given the findings of the Coroner.

The strong parallels between the death of George Floyd and David Dungay have not been lost on David’s loved ones.

This is especially so because it has been nearly 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and yet the Dungay family suspect the government wants to sweep David’s death under the carpet.

“We really do feel for the family over in the US, because we do know how it feels to actually watch a video clip of a loved one being suffocated to death.” David’s nephew Paul Francis-Silva told the ABC.

In the shockingly similar footage to that of the death of George Floyd, David’s pleas of “I can’t breathe, please” have been a focus point for people in Australia.

Tens of thousands of people descended on Meanjin (Brisbane) earlier this month calling for justice for deaths like David Dungay.

Solidarity with the USA’s Black Lives Matter movement was apparent.

There are over 14,000 kilometers between Minneapolis and the observation cell at Long Bay Correctional Centre where David Dungay pleaded for his life.

Five officers forcibly restrained him, moved him to a new cell to allow a nurse to sedate him after he refused to stop eating some rice crackers.