- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

SYDNEY, Australia — Rioters set fire to a train station and pelted police with gasoline bombs in an Aborigine ghetto in Sydney yesterday during a nine-hour street battle that began after a teenager died, purportedly while being chased by officers.

The overnight rioting in the Redfern neighborhood, an Aborigine ghetto of Australia’s most populous city, left 40 officers injured and highlighted continuing tensions between authorities and the nation’s original inhabitants.

The street battle followed the death of a 17-year-old Thomas Hickey, who was impaled on a fence when he fell from his bicycle. His mother said officers were chasing the teen, but police denied the claim.

“It’s got to stop, the way they treat our kids,” Gail Hickey said. “They treat our kids like dogs. … They manhandle them.”

Hundreds of police in full riot gear doused rioters with high-pressure water hoses during the fighting.

The hospitalized police officers mostly suffered broken bones, and one was knocked out after being hit by a flying brick. There was no immediate word on injuries to rioters.

Four persons were arrested and charged with involvement in the fighting.

New South Wales state Prime Minister Bob Carr ordered an investigation into the cause of the riot and said the state coroner would probe Thomas’ death and any police involvement.

In the overnight rioting, about 100 attackers set fire to the Redfern railway station, torched a car and smashed windows.

“They burned out one vehicle and they in fact were throwing Molotov cocktails both at police and at Redfern railway station during the course of the riot,” Assistant Commissioner Bob Waites said.

Aboriginal community leader Lyle Munro said anger had been simmering long before Thomas’ death.

“These young people are very, very upset about what happened to this young man, and they’re very upset about what’s happening to their young friends on a continual basis,” Mr. Munro told Sydney radio station 2UE. “It was a preventable death, like most of the deaths of young Aboriginal people today.”

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