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Palm Is residents criticise police tactics

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 28 November 2004

Police sent to restore order on Palm Island off the north Queensland coast have been criticised by some residents for using heavy-handed tactics.

A riot involving hundreds of angry residents erupted on Friday after an autopsy revealed 36-year-old Cameron Doomadgee, who died in police custody, had suffered serious injuries.

The island's police station and court house were burnt down and police have sent re-inforcements to stop further violence.

An emergency situation remains in place, with police last night describing the mood on the island as "calm but tense".

But Bradley Foster from Palm Island says operations by armed police in the last 24 hours have brought fear to many residents.

He says there was a heavy police presence in parts of the island last night.

"As we were driving around we've seen a couple of busloads of policeman fully armed in their squad gear carrying guns actually going through a person's place looking for a particular person that's on their list of people that they need to interview," he said.

"As a result, they ran through the house and the young fella actually ran up the hill and they couldn't catch him so they went through the house looking around, driving up and down the street."

Nine men are expected to appear before the Townsville Magistrates Court tomorrow after being charged over the riot.

The men, aged between 26 and 54, are all residents of the island.

Police say several have been charged with arson, while two of the men face charges of riot causing damage to property.

Meanwhile, the former chairwoman of Palm Island's community council says she hopes the violence will not further damage the community's already battered reputation.

Pina Geia says the island has had to live down a report from 2000 which labelled it the most dangerous place in the world outside a combat zone.

"Palm Island was branded as the worst place outside of a combat zone, as devil's island, we were branded," she said.

"Things are just sort of settling down and now this, so that would make things even worse and what would people think now."

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