Australia: Police gun down 15-year-old boy
December 17, 2008
Fifteen-year-old Tyler Cassidy was shot dead by police officers in Melbourne, Victoria last Thursday night in a callous and brutal act. Four officers surrounded the agitated youth at a skate park in the suburb of Northcote and killed him in a hail of at least six bullets. The shooting has sparked public outrage and recalled the filthy record of Victorian police, who have become notorious for opening fire on anyone perceived as a threat, including the young and mentally ill…
Tyler’s killing follows a similar incident in Greece, where the death of a 15-year-old boy at the hands of the police has sparked ongoing street clashes, demonstrations, and anti-government strikes. There is no doubt that this response has contributed to the extremely nervous reaction, in political and media circles, to Tyler’s tragic death. A central feature of the media coverage has been an outrageous attempt to limit public sympathy for the dead youth and his family by portraying him as a neo-fascist. A series of lurid stories has emerged detailing the activities of the “Southern Cross Soldiers”—a hitherto unknown racist and nationalist group of youth with whom Tyler reportedly had some contact.
Tyler’s mother denied he was a member of the group. “Accusations that he was involved in a nationalistic group are far-fetched,” she said. “He was 15-years-old. He attended a multi-cultural school. Many of Tyler’s friends came to the house in tears. They are from all different nationalities and they are also grieving.” …
Leaving aside the uses to which the corporate and state media have put this information, in reality, the allegation that Tyler was involved in “a nationalistic group” is not far-fetched, but correct. Tyler was indeed a member of the ‘Southern Cross Soldiers’, and proudly so, as a moment’s research would confirm. (His myspace page is titled TYLERS [S.C.S] P.T.B.A.] And by any standard definition, SCS are indeed ‘nationalistic’. Further, while Katrina may not have known of the existence of the SCS, others did; it even featured in an article in the Herald Sun in November. I first became aware of the boys in late 2007/early 2008, at which time I wrote to a friend:
Nationalism and racism are often conjoined, so I don’t think it’s any surprise that a group such as this has emerged really. One of the only significant distinctions between this and previous incarnations of nationalist sentiment is the use of the Southern Cross as an emblem (as opposed to the Australian flag) and the fact that it’s Internet-based. I think the actual opinions of those involved, which aren’t especially well-articulated or based on a great deal of reflection, would be divided between those who have a passionate hatred of non-whites and those who don’t, with many positions in-between. In other words, the group membership is likely similar to that of the general public. Further, groups like this offer young white Australians a sense of identity and personal coherence, which is absent elsewhere. It’s also a product of a more general political dynamic which on its own terms makes sense, that is: I’m an Australian; being an Australian is Good; Good things should be celebrated; I’m celebrating being an Australian. Conversely, if being an Australian is Good, then not being an Australian — and living IN Australia — is Bad, or at least highly suspect. Therefore, living in Australia and proclaiming oneself to be something other than Australian — say, being ‘Lebanese’ — is Bad (or at least highly suspect), and to be denigrated. It’s also conceived of as being threatening, a challenge, and in the case of young people with a weak or still budding sense of identity, doubly so. The other important factor, I think, is sexual politics, and the challenge to masculinity which declarations of (cultural/ethnic/racial) difference tends to provoke in young males.
Blah blah blah.
A further moment’s investigation would also confirm that SCS take their inspiration, in part, from the December 11, 2005 Cronulla riot: “On that day, approximately 5,000 people, mostly young, gathered on Cronulla beach, many draped in the Australian flag. They launched a nationalistic, alcohol- and drug-fuelled pogrom against anyone of Middle Eastern appearance, injuring more than 20 people, two of whom were stabbed.”
Beyond this, Morrison’s point stands: if the authorities were fearful of a public backlash, one means of lessening its strength would be through portraying Tyler in an unsympathetic light. This tactic has very real limitations, however, as the most obvious feature of his tragic death is the age at which it occurred, and the manner of his killing.
Finally, Jill Singer. Online MySpace ‘mates’ let Tyler Cassidy down, Herald Sun, December 18, 2008 (“HE wrote: “I love Austrlia more than enythink.” It was Tyler Cassidy’s entry on Myspace, months before being killed by police in Northcote…”).