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Vale Rubin Hurricane Carter – May 6th 1937 to 20th April 2014.

Image: James Croucher

The title of this article are the words of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. A number of us who have worked in the area of racism and equality know the name and have followed some of his journey over a period of time. However, there are others who would not know the details of the odyssey that is his life. Around two years ago he was here in Perth for a “Justice” Conference. Paul Murray from Radio Station 6PR interviewed him. Yesterday, to commemorate his passing, Paul replayed the interview. You can listen to the full interview here:

Rubin Carter was born on May 6 1937 in New Jersey. He was the fourth of seven children. He was around 14 when he received his first entry on a criminal record. He was sentenced to a juvenile reformatory for assault. But he was not a person to be tied down for long. In 1954 he escaped from the reformatory and joined the army. It was here that he learned to box. But in 1956 he was discharged from the army and charged for the escape from the reformatory. This time he was confined to a prison in Annandale. The next few years were an exercise in many trips to and from the prison. A series of muggings, assault and robbery saw him imprisoned in East Jersey State Prison, the Rahway and Trenton state prisons.

In 1961 he became a professional boxer as a middleweight pugilist. He became quite an accomplished boxer and was ranked in the lower part of the top ten in the world. Over the years he got up to the number three ranking. He unsuccessfully challenged the title holder in 1964. Right through this period he continued to be dogged by skirmishes with the law. But he boasted an impressive resume in the boxing ring. He fought 40 times and ended with 27 wins, 12 losses and one draw.

In June 1966 the incident that he was convicted for (wrongfully as it turned out later) occurred in the Lafayette Bar and Grill at East 18th Street in Paterson, New Jersey. The details of the incident are well documented. See here:   Both Carter and his friend John Artis were convicted of the crime. Despite the prosecutors pushing for the death penalty, the jurors recommended life sentences for each murder.  In 1974 the alleged witnesses to the murder, recanted their testimony. These recantations were used as a basis for a new trial. This was also the time that Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan, among others lent their support to the campaign to help Artis and Carter. Dylan’s song in 1975 categorically declared that Carter was innocent. The first verse of the song is as follows:

Pistols shots ring out in the barroom night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall
She sees the bartender in a pool of blood
Cries out “My God they killed them all”
Here comes the story of the Hurricane
The man the authorities came to blame
For something that he never done
Put him in a prison cell but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world.

Despite the support of these high profile advocates, the jury after a nine hour deliberation again found Artis and Carter guilty of the murders. Carter again received a double life sentence and Artis a single life sentence. Artis was paroled in 1981. Another appeal, in 1982 on behalf of Carter, was lodged by his attorneys. After much more compelling evidence was adduced indicating that there had been lies told by witnesses in the original trial finally in 1985 Judge Haddon Lee Sarokin granted the writ. He noted that the prosecution had been “predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure”. In November of that year Carter was released from jail without bail. He was then 48 years old.

Anyone who went through the trials and tribulations that Rubin Hurricane Carter had been through could rightly have been forgiven for being bitter and angry. The mark of the genuineness of this man is exemplified in the interview I referred to earlier that was conducted by Paul Murray on 6PR. Carter is matter of fact in his opinion and recognises the racism that is so evident in American society. He refers to that racism with no anger, malice or hatred. He refers to it as a statement of undeniable fact that needs to be dealt with. Importantly also, in the interview he keeps reminding us of the massively principled stance that his best friend John Artis took right through the journey. At any point in that odyssey, Artis could have forsaken him and plea bargained to save his own skin. He chose not to and this cemented their friendship forever.

It was in March 2012 when Carter was in Perth (when the interview with Murray was broadcast) that he revealed that he had terminal prostate cancer. Many readers of this article were likely fortunate enough to have met Carter when he was here. Estelle Blackburn (herself no stranger to this area, having worked tirelessly in achieving the overturning of the convictions of Beamish and Button) posted this on social media yesterday:

“My first meeting with the Hurricane was at an innocence conference in Toronto in 2000. The great man came to Perth twice to support the efforts of JusticeWA to create awareness of how the justice system can get it wrong. He and John Artis, convicted with him, were only exonerated thanks to a group of Toronto people who learnt about the case, believed the convictions were wrong, based on race, and worked determinedly to prove it – and did. Rubin took up this work for others.”

In the interview with Paul Murray, there was no bitterness nor any angst exhibited by Carter. When I asked Paul for a comment about the man, he had this anecdote to convey:

He was the loveliest bloke with a great sense of humour. He and his mate John Artis liked the interview and wanted a picture taken afterwards.

I was at the end of the three and Rubin told me to get in the middle. As soon as I did they threw their arms around me and Rubin said: “John, we made ourselves an Oreo.” after the famous chocolate biscuit with a cream centre. 

They both laughed so hard they had tears in their eyes.

Yes. It was an honour to have Rubin interview himself with John playing it for laughs!!

Geoffrey Robertson wrote a tribute to Hurricane Carter here:

The final paragraph of Robertson’s article exemplifies the nature of the man brilliantly:

“The Hurricane” devoted the rest of his life to projects that secured the release of innocent prisoners and campaigned powerfully against the death penalty – he was, after all, the living embodiment of the argument. He died over Easter in the presence of John Artis, the friend who lost two decades of his own life as punishment for refusing to help the New Jersey police to send Rubin to the electric chair.

It is clear that we have lost an exceptional man. A campaigner not just for his own rights but also for the rights of all people convicted wrongly by the justice system but also a man who looked beyond race. As he said in the interview on 6PR “it is a game – the justice system is a game”!



April 5, 2010 – The WikiLeaks Publishing Organisation release the Collateral Murder Video – “truth to the world”
April 5, 2014 – Western Australians can elect the world’s first WikiLeaks Party parliamentarians – “truth in Government”

The WikiLeaks Party believes that truthful, accurate, factual information is the foundation of democracy and is essential to the protection of human rights and freedoms. Where the truth is suppressed or distorted, corruption and injustice flourish.

The WikiLeaks Party insists on transparency of government information and action, so that these may be evaluated using all the available facts. With transparency comes accountability, and it is only when those in positions of power are held accountable for their actions, that all Australians have the possibility of justice.

The WikiLeaks Party is fearless in its pursuit of truth and good governance, regardless of which party is in power. In each and every aspect of government we will strive to achieve transparency, accountability and justice. This is our core platform.

Exercising Oversight

In a parliamentary democracy, Parliament has three functions

1) To represent the people (the democratic function)

2) To design, guide and implement policy (the legislative function)

3) To scrutinise and oversee government practice, honesty and efficiency (the oversight function).

However what we have witnessed in Australia, despite exceptional work by individual politicians in all the major parties, is a failure of the oversight function. There has been a gradual acceptance that once a single party or a coalition has gained the majority required to form a government, Parliament then becomes little more than an extension of that government’s executive machinery: the houses of Parliament effectively become rubber stamps for its policy agendas. This problem becomes particularly pressing when a single party gains a majority in both Houses, a spectre that remains a distinct possibility after the 2014 WA Senate re-election.

The WikiLeaks Party aims to restore genuine independent scrutiny into our political process.

This is why we are campaigning only for the Upper House. We want to return the Senate to its core function as a genuine Upper House – offering independent scrutiny of government, protecting the interests of the people, and ensuring that light is shone upon bad practices.

Calling Time on Corruption of Purpose

Parliament is also failing Australians in its democratic function.

In a true democracy, Parliament must facilitate – not obstruct – our democratic obligation to dissent.

Yet we are witness to a degeneration of democracy into political party oligarchy, in which dissent is stifled and the public bureaucracy is contained and docile.

Members of Parliament fail to represent the people who elect them partly because of the party system: they are constrained by an obligation to toe their party line. Instead of voting according to conscience or according to the values they have publicly espoused to their constituents, they vote as they are instructed by their Party leadership.

Far too often politicians conceive their public role not to be scrutineers of government, but to be partisan supporters of their own party. Their sense of duty to the party and to the networks of political patronage to which they owe their nomination and their career prospects, outweighs their sense of duty to the electorate.

How rare is it to see a Member of Parliament, whether in government or in opposition, stepping out of line, or raising difficult or controversial issues? To engage in backbench rebellion spells death for the career politician, putting an end to their prospects of career advancement or ministerial appointment.

The result is a system of party oligarchy in which conspiracy and corruption of purpose flourish.

It’s time for a culture shift.

It’s time to give dissidents a voice in our political system.

It’s time to inject some genuine, independent scrutiny into our political process.

The WikiLeaks Party in the Senate

The WikiLeaks Party is running a number of candidates for the Senate in the 2014 WA Senate re-election.

Our Senators will be genuinely independent in their scrutiny of the government and demand thorough transparency its contractual arrangements with private companies.

We will bring our core principles of transparency, accountability and justice to bear on all the major issues currently facing Australia.

WikiLeaks Party candidates are ideally suited to the work of the Senate: they are skilled in understanding complexity and they are experienced in dealing with large amounts of documents produced by bureaucracies and spotting their hidden significance and tricks.

The WikiLeaks Party will be vigilant against corruption in all its forms.

The WikiLeaks organisation was pioneering in its use of ‘scientific journalism’, reporting information with reference to publicly available primary sources. The WikiLeaks Party will promote ‘scientific policy’; decision-making based on research, evidence and clear, transparent principles.

In particular we will be fearless in the pursuit of the 21st century freedoms which are essential to the creation of any meaningful democracy. These include:

  • the free flow of information: we live in a media-ocracy. What is politically possible is defined by the media environment. And in Australia 98% of the print media is the hands of just three corporations. Seven out of ten of our national newspapers are owned by the Murdoch News International group. The WikiLeaks Party will push for radical change in media policy to increase Australian media innovation.
  • Internet freedom – the WikiLeaks Party will be fearless in its opposition to the creeping surveillance state, driven by globalised data collection and spying agencies, both state and corporate controlled. We will demand that all information on data seizure and storage of citizens’ data by government agencies and allied corporations be made public.
  • protection for whistleblowers – with an increasingly unaccountable corporate state and an increasingly secretive security state, whistleblowers are an essential brake on bad practice. Only the threat of leaks can keep unaccountable institutions honest. So whistleblowers must be protected by law.
  • standing up for national sovereignty – for too long Australian politics has been under the influence of foreign powers and transnational non-state actors, affecting both our foreign and domestic policy, against the interests of Australians. The WikiLeaks Party will fight to expose the collusions between the Australian state and the military-industrial complex that dominates world affairs.
  • integrity in the global community – our national character is proud and generous, but recent policies have not met our obligations to the international community. The WikiLeaks Party will ensure Australia stands tall as a responsible global citizen.

Lucy Nicol – Shining a light on the big banks dirty financial schemes

How many more people must die? Whose child will be next? How many bodies do we have to climb over before there is any sense of urgency? According to the Chair of the Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC) Warren Mundine it will be 2015 before funds may be made available for suicide prevention – 200 suicides later.
In October, following months of sustained coverage by The National Indigenous Times, by The National Indigenous Radio Serviceand by The Stringer, following my research translated as journalism, Mr Mundine committed to adding the suicide crisis among First Nations peoples to the IAC’s mandate. This was a step in the right direction after one Government after another underfunded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention strategies. Every year the suicide rates have risen, taking the lives of children, youth and adults.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported 996 suicides of First Nations people between 2001 to 2010. My research estimates that it is closer to 2000 suicides when other unnatural deaths are taken into account. Between 1 in 12 to 1 in 24 of all First Nations deaths are by suicide. In the last three years I have estimated there have been another 400 suicides, a rise of 30 per cent per annum on the preceding ten years. By 2020 I estimate nearly every First Nations nuclear family will be touched by suicide.
In early February I was invited by the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, to travel with him and Mr Mundine over a couple of days to several remote WA towns. I spoke to them extensively of the suicide crisis. Mr Mundine has a good understanding of some of the psychosocial issues underwriting the crisis, and the correlation to extreme poverty and racism. Mr Mundine said to me that the IAC would meet on February 14 and 15, with the Prime Minister sitting in, and that during the two days of the meeting the suicide crisis would at long last be discussed. Two reports, one by psychologists, and another by psychiatrists would be tabled, and from the findings recommendations would be made to the Prime Minister.
But to my surprise, I learned from a source that the reports and the suicide crisis were discussed for less than an hour. People are suiciding among the world’s highest rates and yet an hour is all that was scheduled. This crisis should be priority on the national agenda.
How many more must die?
Apparently a couple of hundred more must be left to take their lives before any prospect of serious funding arises to address the crisis.
The National Indigenous Radio Service’s chief correspondent and editor, Michelle Tihuane asked several questions of the suicide crisis of Mr Mundine during a twenty minute interview.
“I do want to touch on the issue of suicide and self-harm, appalling, just terrible levels in our communities. Now I understand that Gerry Georgatos travelled with you and Minister Scullion last month and I am wondering, because he has forwarded both yourself and Minister Scullion some recommendations on where we can address the impacts of it in our communities. There are no conversations going on in the mainstream media that I am aware of in regards to the crisis,” said Ms Tihuane.
Mr Mundine responded, “And you are probably right. It is a major issue that we have to get through. And I see it as I have mentioned previously, that it is one of the central planks that I want to work on this year.”
“I spent the last few months you know talking to Gerry and getting recommendations from him but also talking to psychologists and psychiatric doctors and nurses to get my head around it. I am meeting currently, starting last week, with (Dr Patrick) McGorrie, the famous professor (in psychiatry), and we’re working through this process how we can target and how are we going to make these changes,” said Mr Mundine.
“One of the interesting things they’re telling me is that suicides are about kids who don’t see a future for themselves. If they don’t see a future why should they go to school when they don’t see a job. There is the breakdown of culture and community and there is this malaise occurring in communities where suicide is the only alternative they see.”
“We need to address this. And that’s one of the budgetary arguments I want to set up for 2015 – that we start looking at funds going into this area. For now we’re doing very badly, dragging the chain.”
“I think the whole Australian community, myself included, has a strange approach to mental health and suicides but we need a mature approach to it, have the conversations and then action what needs to be done.”
2015? Another year translates to 200 more suicides of men, women and children. And less than an hour’s conversation on a national tragedy – what a terrible indictment of the Australian nation. The IAC, with a sense of priority and urgency, must pursue funding now.
I also contacted Minister Scullion’s office.
“This is a critical issue,” said Minister Scullion.
“Absolutely fundamental to tackling this issue is ensuring that young people are engaged with education and with work. That’s why my focus on getting children to school and adults into work is vital to re-engaging with those people who have become disengaged from education, work, their family and communities.”
“My approach is to work with communities and allow them to determine the solutions that suit their particular circumstances. I want to ensure communities are supported through Government action that supports the approach of communities, rather than imposing a programme or programmes that are another one-size fits all.”
“The Government will certainly have more to say on this issue,” said Minister Scullion.
The National Indigenous Radio Service correspondent, Warren Barnsley asked several questions of Minister Scullion on the suicides crisis.
Minister Scullion said to Mr Barnsley that he expects the IAC to advise the Government in the near future. When is this near future?
Minister Scullion referred to the “two reports”.
“Obviously, these reports are very important considerations of both the effects of the tragedy of poverty and disconnection, as well as the addition of substances abuse, primarily alcohol and marijuana abuse.”
“We have an inordinate number of young people taking their lives, it’s been a growing challenge for all of us.”
“Hopefully the reports will throw some light on it. As I said, it is a matter for the Indigenous Advisory Committee. When we next meet, I expect the IAC will provide that advice to the Prime Minister on how to meet the levels of support required (for suicide prevention).”
Move it along fellas, it’s not rocket science, reduce the extreme poverty and in addition send in a crack team of experts to identify trusted Elders and community leaders to work psychosocially with youth, families and communities to restore their right to hope. Fund this support, now.

Listen to the radio interview

WikiLeaks Senate candidate, television producer Tibor Meszaros

WikiLeaks Senate candidate, journalist Lucy Nicol