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Protesters Take To New York Streets For Aboriginal Woman Who Died In Custody

#AboriginalLivesMatter

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A protest in the United States to show support for and solidarity with the family of a young Aboriginal woman who died in a police cell in Western Australia has brought international attention to her death.

The rally took place in Jackson Heights, New York, on Monday and was organised by a social justice group called NYC Shut It Down.

The group is part of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and takes to the streets to rally for victims of police brutality each week.

"We demand an end to unaccountable police violence and criminalisation of daily life," the group says on its Go Fund Me page.

"We are the organisers of the weekly #PeoplesMonday demonstrations that honour a different victim of police violence every week."

On Monday, the group marched for 22-year-old Yamatji woman Ms Dhu (whose name can't be used for cultural reasons), who died in police custody in 2014 after she was locked up for $3,622 in unpaid fines.

The advertisement for the march included the hashtag #AboriginalLivesMatter.

The group marched down a street surrounded by police while carrying placards with a photo of Ms Dhu and signs emblazoned with a raised fist to signify solidarity.

The protesters also held up posters with several facts about Dhu's death.

"Ms Dhu was a 22-year-old Indigenous Yamatji woman from Western Australia. She died as a result of police neglect. We will now tell you some facts about her murder," the group can be seen yelling in a supermarket in a video posted to Facebook.

"Black lives matter. If you believe that Ms Dhu's life matters I ask you to raise your fist in solidarity."

Dhu died an agonising death from septicaemia and pneumonia caused by a broken rib that she had sustained from domestic violence.

Despite complaining several times while in custody at the South Hedland police station, she was largely ignored.

Dhu was eventually taken to a nearby health clinic twice but was sent back to the police station both times.

An inquest into Dhu's death has finished and coroner Ros Fogliani is yet to release the findings, but there is mounting pressure on her to release the shocking CCTV footage of Dhu's final hours alive. Fogliani has so far refused.

The use of the BLM movement as a platform for Indigenous activism in Australia has been gaining momentum over the past year.

Alliances between Aboriginal justice groups and American chapters of BLM are also being created.

Dhu's uncle, Shaun Harris, is in regular contact with BLM leaders, who have offered support to his family. In July, Harris spoke at a BLM rally in Perth about his niece's death.

"Black lives in Australia don’t matter to the police, that’s why our family want the CCTV footage of Ms Dhu released," Harris told BuzzFeed News at the time.

"If people saw it they would join our fight for justice and make the police and authorities accountable,” Harris said.

Since a royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody in 1991, there have been more then 355 black deaths in police and prison custody around Australia.

Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at arielle.benedek+AC@buzzfeed.com.

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