UPDATED: Why We Need To Talk About Sandra Bland In The UK, Too
When Sandra Bland was found dead in her jail cell, police said it was a suicide. But now they're being accused of a conspiracy to cover up her death - and this affects every single one of us
The internet is supposed to be making the world smaller. News breaks faster, contact is quicker, and the globe feels united with the help of a hashtag (or two). But when it all happens behind a screen – when the people shouting are two dimensional, and when their voices are only as loud as a size 12 sans serif font, it’s not always easy to take it all in. And when it’s a news story that takes place 5,000 thousand miles away, there’s nothing to stop you shaking your head and just refreshing the page. After all, you tell yourself, there’ll just be something new in the morning.
But for Sandra Bland, there won’t be anything new. Because there won’t be another morning. The 28-year-old died in police custody on July 13th. And weallowe it to her to read her story.
WHO WAS SANDRA BLAND?
Sandra Bland was 28 years old. She had four sisters – three older, one younger – and she studied at the college of agriculture at Prairie View A&M University. She played in a band, worked as a summer counsellor and was about to start a new job working as a summer programme associate. She was single and sociable – in February, she and her sister went to a Maroon 5 concert, and at high school she’d been on the cheerleading squad. But Sandra followed recent events involving police brutality and racism with interest and frustration – vlogging about racial injustice on her YouTube channel, Sandy Speaks, and demanding change. ‘In the news that we’ve seen as of late, you could stand there, surrender to the cops, and still be killed,’ she said in one of her videos.
According to her friends and family, Sandra was happy and outspoken, and – although she was angry at the way many black people are treated by the American judicial system – unlikely to start a fight. As far as they were aware, she didn’t suffer from any other mental health issues, although in one YouTube video she filmed back in March, Sandra discusses PTSD and depression.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
On July 10, Sandra was driving near her home in Prairie View, Texas, when she switched lanes and forgot to signal. She was pulled over by a state policeman, Brian Encinia, who asked her to put out her cigarette. Sandra objected – it’s not illegal to smoke in your own car in Texas – and in the series of events that followed, Encinia tried to forcibly remove the 28-year-old from her car. He said he was arresting her, but didn’t explain why. And when Sandra refused to get out, Encinia threatened her with his taser.
IS THAT IT?
Nope. That’s just the beginning. We know that Sandra eventually got out of her car because of a video that was released by the police. But the video seemed to have been edited, as cars appeared and disappeared haphazardly along the road, and the footage looked like it was looped. The police said that was due to technical issues – and released another video of the arrest. But by this point, videos from bystanders who had witnessed the arrest were being uploaded to the internet too. In one, Sandra says her head was slammed into the ground. Another eyewitness says Sandra was thrown onto the floor by an officer who had his knee to her neck.
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