‘The video of George Floyd took me back to when I saw my uncle’s death’

Paul Silva, whose uncle David Dungay Jr died in custody in disturbingly similar circumstances to George Floyd in Minneapolis, sends a message of solidarity to the uprising in the US.

I am the nephew of David Dungay Jnr, a Dunghutti man who was killed by prison guards in Long Bay jail in December 2015. I want to send a message of solidarity to everyone on the streets in the United States fighting for justice for George Floyd. I really feel for the family of George Floyd and want them to know we feel their pain and stand with them.

When I saw the video of George Floyd being murdered, I had to stop the footage. It took me straight back to when I first saw the video of my uncle’s death. Both men died from “positional asphyxia”. This happens when police or prison officers restrain someone face down with too much pressure. Both men were continuously saying “I can’t breathe” and begging for their lives. Both men had multiple officers restraining them, pushing them into the ground and ignoring their cries for help, until they took their last breath.

In the case of David Dungay Jnr, he was alone in his cell eating a packet of biscuits. Because he was diabetic, a nurse was worried about his sugar levels and asked him to stop. But he knew how to manage his diabetes and they were his biscuits, so he refused. A riot squad stormed his cell – over a packet of biscuits – and pushed him into the ground until he died. George Floyd was doing nothing wrong either. 

In both Australia and the United States, if you’re Black, the police and the justice system are going to target you. It’s appalling, there is so much injustice. All my life I have experienced harassment, we get pulled over, or stopped and searched. Not just from police, even going to the local convenience store you get continually watched. There’s terrible racism in the education system too, in housing and employment, right across society.  I feel like it’s worse than it has ever been – people would shoot us if they could get away with it. Last year a young Aboriginal man was shot dead by police in a family house in Yuendumu.

Police and prison guards use violence against us just for a power rush. They want to show they have total control. They know they have the government behind them no matter how badly they abuse their authority. In the case of David Dungay Jnr, the six officers who killed him are still walking around free, some have even been promoted.

The masses of people on the streets in the United States calling for justice is amazing. That is the only force that can hold the police accountable. More people are starting to realise the injustices against Black people and against First Nations people everywhere. In Minneapolis and other cities, it’s not just Black people out there protesting, there are white people too, people from many backgrounds jumping on board and showing their support.

I’ve seen on the news that they have said that they will charge one of the officers who killed George Floyd. But it’s one thing to get charges, and another to get justice. The court system is so corrupt, and works to protect police and prison guards. After my uncle’s death, there was a Coronial Inquest. But they knew the result before the case even started. The Coroner found there was no justification for the riot squad to rush my uncle’s cell. He found that the use of force was a cause of death. But there were no recommendations or referrals for charges to be laid, no consequences whatsoever.

The inquest might be over, but our fight for justice is not. We will be starting a campaign in June for the Department of Public Prosecutions to lay charges and the SafeWork authority to also prosecute the guards that killed David Dungay Jnr.

We don’t get the same big response in Australia as they do in the United States with the Black Lives Matter movement, but we have had many people, both First Nations and non-Indigenous people standing with us. We can build on that – we need many more to join us.  We can take inspiration from the United States and get back out on the streets in our own backyard, where there is so much brutality against Black people too, that’s the only way to get justice.

Join the vigil in Sydney for George Floyd and to stop all black deaths in custody 3pm next Saturday 6 June at 20 Lee St, Chippendale Facebook event here


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