Calls for systemic change at rally for Gomeroi man Mark Mason

Mark Mason's family call for justice outside NSW Parliament on Friday, 11 November, 2021. Photo: Linda Casey Kennedy/Facebook.

By ADAM TRUMPER and RACHEL EVANS

Eleven years after Gomeroi man Mark Mason was killed by NSW Police, family members and supporters gathered at a rally in Sydney outside the NSW Parliament on Friday, 11 November to demand an end to police killings and justice for First Nations victims of police violence.

The commemorative event was organised by the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA).

Mason, a father of four, was capsicum sprayed and tasered at his home in Collarenebri by a five police officers before they allegedly shot him in the back on November 11, 2010. Darlene Mason, Mark’s daughter criticised the investigation. “There is no way that police investigating police is a fair process,” she said. “The shooting was disgusting and heartbreaking, there has been no justice.”

Journalist Amy McQuire described Mark Mason in her article Shattered Glass: The Death In Custody of Mark Mason Snr as someone who has “worked hard” all his life.

Raul Bassi from ISJA condemned the police for using unnecessary lethal force and the justice system’s protection of violent police officers. “There are laws to protect [cops] that don’t protect other people,” he said.

Muruwari and Budjiti man Bruce Shillingsworth said there needed to be a movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to demand changes in law enforcement and justice for First Nations people. “Let us come together to fight the injustice happening across this continent of ours … Let’s stand in our community, united in solidarity.”

Criminal lawyer Lisa De Luca told Green Left that in the footage of the shooting she saw there was no evidence that Mark Mason was holding a weapon. “One officer fired two shots, in immediate succession, one hitting Mr Mason through the shoulder, the other through the back — which was probably the fatal shot.

“After shooting him — as he lay face down dying — police handcuffed him although they asserted they attempted CPR. There was an attempt to infer Mr Mason was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Toxicological results showed absolutely no drugs or alcohol in his system.”

The families’ fight led to a coronial inquest in 2013. Despite the fact that Mason had already been capsicum sprayed and tasered, Coroner Hugh Dillon ruled that the officer who fired the fatal gunshots had acted reasonably. 

Activist Padraic Gibson, Uncle Ray and NSW Greens MPs David Shoebridge and Jenny Leong also spoke at the rally.

Meanwhile, two more First Nations men have died recently in the racist incarceration system. 

Gomeroi man Stanley Russell was shot and killed on 9 November by a NSW police officer at his aunt Pam’s home in Seven Hills. The family said on 12 November that the police shot Stanley “in the chest at close range”. He had only recently woken when the police entered with an arrest warrant. “There is a very big difference between an arrest warrant and shooting a man at close range inside a house,” the family said.

“Neighbours say they heard four or five shots, all inside the house. We found out about the killing of our son Stanley when we were watching the news.”

His brother Edward Russell died in Long Bay Jail in December 1999 “because the NSW prison system has completely failed in its duty of care to Edward”, the family said.

The ABC reported on 7 November that a 26-year-old First Nations man was found unresponsive in his cell in the maximum security Shortland Correctional Prison. 

This article first appeared in Green Left. It is republished here with the kind permission of Green Left.