Angry scenes erupted outside an Australian courthouse as people gathered to protest the death of Elijah Doughty, who was found dead after police responded to a call about an accident on Monday (29 August). A 55-year-old man has been charged with manslaughter over the death of the 14-year-old indigenous boy.
The unidentified defendant was due to appear in court in the Western Australian mining town of Kalgoorlie on Tuesday (30 August) morning, where around 200 demonstrators had gathered. Up to 12 police officers were injured during the violence after they were pelted with rocks and glass bottles, and car and building windows were also smashed.
As tensions boiled over, protesters tried to force their way into the courthouse, ABC News reported. Five police cars and one local business was damaged and several arrests were made.
"Members of the public have a right to protest, however, we encourage them to do so peacefully, or they may be arrested," Western Australia (WA) police said in a statement on its Facebook page. "Officers will maintain a strong visible presence in the community and will take action against those identified as breaking the law. Aboriginal leaders are working closely with WA Police," it added.
According to reports, Doughty was riding a stolen motorcycle before crashing with a utility vehicle in bushland off Clancy Street in Boulder. Police said the stolen motorbike was linked to the charged man.
The teenager's grandfather described Kalgoorlie as a "powder keg" in the aftermath of the violence outside the courthouse. "It's got to stop," Albert Doughty, an Aboriginal healthworker told the Guardian. "Someone else is going to be hurt. It could be black, white or brindle. It's like a powder keg; we're too scared to walk the streets."
Doughty's aunt said her nephew's death was the third tragedy to affect the family in recent weeks and described him as a "bit of a prankster" to the Kalgoorlie Miner newspaper. "He survived all circumstances he found himself in and was a beautiful brother to the sisters he protected," she said.
"He was a very happy-go-lucky kid; he was never a bad kid. He was always someone who lifted other people's spirits whenever times were hard," she added. "He was not a straight-A student but his circumstances were hard, he struggled at school but he had other issues to prioritise."