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Police told to steer clear of Palm Is funeral

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 30 November 2004

Palm Islanders say police are not welcome at the funeral of a man whose death in custody sparked last week's riot in the north Queensland Indigenous community.

At the same time, a Gulf Aboriginal leader has warned there could be payback unless police drop the charges against those arrested over the riot.

Cameron Doomadgee, 36, was found dead in his cell shortly after being arrested for being a public nuisance.

Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson says there will continue to be a strong police presence on Palm Island for as long as safety concerns linger after last Friday's rampage.

But that is not what the local residents want as they prepare for the funeral.

Past council chairman Robert Blackley says police are not welcome at the funeral.

"They are for family, they are for friends, they are not for police officers because any police officer that turns up at the funeral is only going to be a target," Mr Blackley said.

But Palm Island deputy chairwoman Rosina Norman has played down the prospect of trouble.

"No-one goes off at funerals because they always respect the family," she said.

Mr Blackley says the men arrested over last week's riot should be allowed to attend the funeral, expected to be held late next week.

"They don't have passports, they don't have millions of dollars to leave the country," he said. "I don't think they're going anywhere if they come to Palm Island for a funeral."

Meanwhile, Gulf Aboriginal leader Murrandoo Yanner is calling for the charges over last week's riot to be dropped, warning that police could be targeted for payback unless that happens.

"I certainly don't encourage or expect anyone to go out and kill anybody," Mr Yanner said.

"There is death in ritual payback but payback comes in many, many forms. Many people may have a broken leg, speared in the leg symbolically to release blood and things.

"Payback comes in many forms but I certainly don't advocate people go out and kill anybody."

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