What Happened to Sandra Bland?
“You’re trying to tell me that somebody who spoke out against police brutality is going to hang herself?” asked Lanitra Dean, Sandra Bland’s friend, on the Waller County Courthouse steps. “You tell me somebody who knew she was going to get out of there to tell the truth was going to hang herself?”
“You knew the truth was going to escape that jail,” she added, “but you didn’t want that to get out, so what did you do? You killed the truth?”
“What happened to Sandra Bland?” and “We demand answers!” were the most popular chants at the Justice for Sandy march in Hempstead this afternoon.
About 150 people braved 90 degree heat to gather in front of the Waller County Sheriff’s Office & County Jail and march to the nearby courthouse to demand an independent investigation into the death of Sandra Bland. The sprawling concrete parking lots of abandoned car dealerships and crumbling gas stations ring this town, frozen in time, that’s been left behind by the US 290 bypass. Overhead the sound of a helicopter — news or police? — punctuates the space between chants.
They came from her nearby alma mater where she was to have started a job just this past Monday; they came from Hempstead and surrounding Waller County, saying this latest tragedy is just the latest incident in a county with a long history of segregation and racism; they came from nearby Houston to lend support and connect the dots from Ferguson to Baltimore to New York City to McKinney, Texas and now Hempstead.
“Everybody — black, white, and brown — knows that something is wrong with this case,” said Houston activist Quannel X. “It doesn’t smell right.”
“This case is part and parcel of the global white supremacy system,” said a woman representing the National Black United Front.”
For those who haven’t yet heard, Sandra Bland was a 2009 graduate of Prairie View A&M University, a 28 year old woman from the Chicago area, who had just returned to accept a job in student outreach at PVAMU.
She was supposed to have started this past Monday, but last Friday, July 10, she was pulled over by police for failing to signal a lane change. Police allege that Bland became combative and a bystander video shows what happened from there.
In the video, two male officers are shown subduing Bland, who asks why she is being mistreated, why her head is being slammed against the ground, and claiming that she can’t hear. She was taken into custody around 4:30 pm on Friday, July 10, and spoke to her sister from jail the next day. Arrangements were being made to post her bail on Monday morning, but instead, on Monday morning, Sandra Bland was found dead in her Waller County jail cell — police say she hung herself with a plastic bag.
Though police and the Waller County District Attorney have begun a smear campaign, alluding to a video from March wherein Bland claims to be suffering from depression and PTSD, those closest to her say that she would never take her own life, especially for something so minor.
Most ironically, Sandra Bland had become an outspoken video blogger in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, spreading a message of racial unity that did not pull punches when necessary.
Organizers and participants at today’s rally vow to persist in their efforts until all their doubts and questions about the mysterious death of Sandra Bland while in Waller County custody are answered. At the time of the rally, Texas Rangers were handling the investigation but since then, the FBI has agreed to join the investigation while reports have emerged that the current sheriff of Waller county, Glenn Smith, was fired from his last post as Chief of Police of nearby Hempstead for documented cases of racism.
“[Y]ou can’t [kill the truth]” Bland’s bandmate exhorted Waller County authorities. “As long as you got all of us, the truth will never die.”