A vocal young anti-racist police brutality activist was found dead in a Texas jail cell Monday, and while police are claiming her death was a “suicide,” friends, and now family, activists, and social media are angrily protesting the official narrative amid a public outcry against police violence towards Black U.S. citizens.
The 28-year-old Sandra Bland was driving to a job interview Friday, when she was stopped by Waller County police officers for alleged improper signalling during a lane change, ABC7 Chicago quoted county Sheriff Department officials as saying.
Officials say her death in her jail cell was ruled a suicide by hanging, but Bland’s family has expressed deep reservations over this version of events.
They are saying that #SandraBland committed suicide while in police custody, that she hung herself. But we've been told this lie before.— deray mckesson (@deray) July 16, 2015
Authorities alleged Bland assaulted them, charging her with “assault on a public servant,” prior to her violent arrest. Witnesses said they saw police slamming Bland’s head on the dirt as they aggressively tossed her to the ground, using their knees to restrain her neck.
A video of the arrest filmed by a bystander surfaced online this week, in which Bland can be heard telling the officer she is unable to hear, in pain, and losing feeling in her arms as they sit on her.
On Thursday, the Daily Kos reported that the Texas sheriff who made the first public comments about Bland’s in-custody death, was previously fired for multiple complaints of racism while the Daily Beast said she posted for bond before her alleged suicide, prompting even more suspicions of foul play.
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“We have come completely full circle in that Jim Crow justice at the hands of state-sponsored agents, in this case the police, is alive and well,” Writer and Activist Brenda Nasr told teleSUR English on Thursday.
“(Her death in police custody) proves that it doesn't matter how much you have assimilated into the mainstream, if you encounter the police you are viewed as a threat, just by virtue of your blackness. Asserting our rights is a threat to the very fabric of a country built on the idea that black people are less than human,” she said.
#SandraBland had degrees. Belonged to a Black Greek Organization. Was employed. She was all the things you tell us to be. And she's dead.— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) July 16, 2015
Nasr — whose campaign "We Want to Go Home" calls on African nations to grant asylum to African-Americans on the basis of U.S. racial persecution — says her campaign highlights the growing feeling of displacement many Black people feel within the United States in light of the continuing state violence and police unaccountability.
“She hanged herself" is the new "he reached for my gun," Nasr wrote on her popular Facebook page.
According to ABC7 Chicago friends said Bland had been with her family in suburban Chicago over the July 4th holiday.
Friends of Bland told ABC7 that she was “a warm, affectionate, outspoken woman,” who spoke out about police brutality on Facebook page and was critical of injustice against African-Americans in the midst of the national #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Bland, who has advocated for #BlackLivesMatter on a video on social media, is now the subject of the hashtag herself.
Numerous people took to Twitter and Facebook using the famous hashtag, along with #SayHerName, #WhatHappenedtoSandraBland and #JusticeforSandraBland, to demand society, the media and authorities pay attention to the suspicious circumstances of her arrest and death.
Nasr also has used social media to highlight the way many people, particularly many white feminists, were quick to condemn the fictional death of a white woman in Rihanna’s recent controversial music video, but say little about the real life deaths of black women and men at the hands of police.
“At least for the black community ... These murders at the hands of police, other agents of the state, and "lone madmen", are now happening on a near daily basis. Every one of these incidents, followed by the lack of any real public outcry from any other community, reminds us of just how much we don't matter to the dominant culture. How much our lives matter, or rather don't matter, to them.”
Texas State Rangers say they are now investigating Bland's death.