The Macquarie Fields riots were a series of disturbances across southwest Sydney in February 2005 which were referred to as a riot by both the Parliament of New South Wales and the media.
The riots were sparked by a high speed police pursuit on 25 February through the Glenquarie housing estate in the Sydney western suburb of Macquarie Fields. The chase resulted in the driver, 20-year-old Jesse Kelly, crashing the stolen vehicle into a tree and killing his two passengers, 17-year-old Dylan Raywood and 19-year-old Matthew Robertson. The trio had been under electronic surveillance for several days beforehand. Certain circumstances around the riots including the fatal police pursuit in a low-income area were seen to be a repeat of the riots that took place in Redfern, New South Wales during the previous year.
The accident sparked protests and accusations of police impropriety after Kelly's aunt Deborah claimed police had rammed the car prior to the crash. Kelly eventually adopted the accusation, which was untrue.
New South Wales state Premier Bob Carr mobilised hundreds of police, including heavily-armed riot squads into the area. The violence that followed lasted four nights, involving at least 300 residents clashing with police. The rioters hurled rocks, bottles, bricks, petrol bombs, and set cars alight, injuring several officers. During a Parliamentary inquiry nine months later, NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney stated that the violence during the incident was not a riot when compared to incidents in Los Angeles or Paris, referring to the distinction between "disturbance" and "riot" as defined by Los Angeles Police Department police chief Bill Bratton, who had been visiting Australia at the time of the disturbances.
The police were criticised at the time for not acting to quell the disturbances quickly enough, with some arguing the riots could have been ended in their first day had a more aggressive stance been adopted. The so-called 'soft' approach by police was put down to downsizing and a lack of training within the NSW Police Force that inhibited their ability to contain the ringleaders effectively. The police eventually made 55 arrests, including that of Jesse Kelly, who had fled the scene of the fatal car crash which preceded the riots.
The suburb of Macquarie Fields suffered from a high rate of unemployment rate of 11.3 percent, more than twice the National average. Of its 4,600 homes, 1,500 are housing commission projects and home to low-income and disadvantaged families. Criticisms have been made about this controversial cul de sac style urban planning that left many residents with very little privacy.
In October 2007, Jesse Kelly was formally charged after admitting two counts of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death and was sentenced to 5 years jail. In the same month a coronial inquiry officially cleared New South Wales Police of any responsibility for the riot. His aunt Deborah Kelly, who started the rumors that sparked the riots, was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice and with concealing a serious indictable offense.
Famous quotes containing the word fields:
“The sun was like a great visiting presence that stimulated and took its due from all animal energy. When it flung wide its cloak and stepped down over the edge of the fields at evening, it left behind it a spent and exhausted world.”
—Willa Cather (18731947)