After a coroner found Mulrunji Doomadgee’s death in custody was an accident, Palm Islanders yelled, demanded answers and then headed for the local police station.
“I tell you people … things gunna burn,” Lex Wotton said before riots broke out.
The man, who was jailed for inciting the violence sparked by Mulrunji’s 2004 death, watched his younger self address gathered islanders in a video played to a federal court trial on Wednesday.
Shirtless and wearing sunglasses, he pulls a microphone from his brother-in-law David Bulsey, who started speaking after a coroner’s preliminary report found the local man died from falling over a step.
“How did he break four ribs from one fall?” one local is heard yelling after the report is read out.
“I’m not going to accept it (the findings) and I know a lot of you people don’t,” Mr Wotton later says.
The police station and home of arresting officer Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley were razed in the rioting that ensued.
Mr Bulsey is shown calling the death “cold-blooded murder” and asking why Sen-Sgt Hurley shouldn’t “rot in jail” before the crowd moves.
“They’re inciting the riots, cops,” Mr Bulsey, who addressed the crowd much longer than Mr Wotton, says.
“They want it to happen.”
The trial will consider whether alleged police failures after the death of Mulrunji were racially discriminatory.
Mr Wotton told the court people tried to block a fire truck’s path and threw rocks at its windows as the station burned.
He said he told police the community wanted them off the island and tried to arrange transportation before he found out a state of emergency had been declared.
He watched “choppers” fly in before heading home, where he saw a picture of himself on the news, the court heard.
“It’s not only due to the death a week ago,” he told a journalist who rang his mobile to ask about the riots.
“It’s due to the government neglect over a long period of time.”
Among the complaints in the class action – launched by Mr Wotton on behalf of Palm Islands – is that police failed to appropriately address growing tensions before the riots.
The court has heard the local council passed a motion to send a letter asking government officials, including then-Premier Peter Beattie, to come to the island and address the community before the riots.
Lawyers for the state of Queensland say armed locals threatened to kill police.
In footage shot by a local after the riots, Lex Wotton is asked what he thinks of the day’s events.
“A bit of justice,” he says.
Federal court judge Debbie Mortimer will decide whether the state of Queensland should pay compensation and damages to the community, which has also asked for an apology.
The trial continues in Townsville.