Sandra Bland Should Not Have Died!!
Stop Police Terror and Murder!
Demonstrate in New York:
Which Side Are You On?

July 27, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


“Get out of the car! I will light you up! Get out! Now!” (Texas Department of Public Safety pig threatening Sandra Bland with a Taser)

“Hey, this is me ... I just was able to see the judge. I don’t really know. They got me set at a $5,000 bond. I’m still just at a loss for words, honestly, about this whole processhow did switching lanes with no signal turn into all of this, I don’t even know. But I’m still here, so I guess call me back when you can.” (Sandra Bland, calling a friend from the Waller County, Texas, jail)

A Modern-Day Lynching

From start to finish, the events that ended with the death of 28-year-old Sandra Bland in a Texas jail cell were a modern-day lynching. Sandra Bland’s murder is an infuriating concentration of the brutal, genocidal oppression faced by masses of Black people, every day that this foul system continues to exist.

When Sandra Bland arrived in Prairie View, Texas, she was a young woman happy to have landed a good job, happy to be back at the college she had graduated from, happy to be back with some old friends. But soon she was pulled over by a Texas pig. She was brutalized and locked up. Three days later she was dead. Sharon Cooper, one of Sandra’s sisters, told reporters that Sandra’s supposed suicide “ unfathomable to me. People who knew her, truly knew the depth of her ... that’s unfathomable right now.”

Sandra Bland was pulled over on a bullshit, made-up charge. The cop who arrested her, Brian Encinia, did a sharp U-turn to come after her. What did he see that made him act that way? He saw a young Black woman with out-of-state plates driving, perfectly legally, in broad daylight. That was enough for him to turn around and pursue her.

Encinia chased Sandra Bland down, and then pulled her over when she thought he was trying to get by her. He reached into her car, grabbed her, yanked on her until he pulled her out of the car, drew a weapon on her, and handcuffed her—because she said she didn’t have to put out a cigarette when he ordered her to. Then he threw her to the ground—out of view of his dashboard camera—put his knee on her back, twisted her arm, and mocked her when she told him she had epilepsy.

What got this pig going? What gave him the confidence that he could get away with shit like this? The same thing that gives cops all over this country the confidence that they can brutalize and murder Black and Latino people with impunity.

The Rot and Horror of a System

Enforcers of the system of oppression we live in arrested, mauled, and killed Sandra Bland. But the system’s rot and horror are not confined to rural Texas counties run by racist sheriffs and prosecutors. The horror that came to light with the murder of Sandra Bland is built into a larger horror—a system that thrives upon brutal beatings and murder by police of Black and Latino people, among its many intolerable crimes.

This is a system that has utter contempt for the lives of Black and Latino people. In the days since Sandra Bland was murdered in Waller County, Richard Linyard was chased and killed by police in Oakland, California; Samuel Dubose was shot in the head and killed by police in Cincinnati; and in the Houston area alone, on the same day the Waller County prosecutor announced the results of their autopsy of Sandra Bland, two more men—both of them unnamed in media accounts—were killed by one police force or another.

Time after time, murder after murder, these cops are let go. Rarely are they even indicted or charged with anything, much less convicted. All they need to do is claim they “felt threatened” by the person they murdered. And this is backed up, time and again, by courts, laws, and the U.S. Constitution. The murderers are determined by judges, district attorneys, and police officials to have “acted reasonably,” and “within the law,” when they choke someone to death, or shoot someone in the head. The media portrays the people they killed as violent drug users. Political leaders of both bourgeois parties give the police their full and unquestioning support.

In short, pigs like Encinia know, on some level, that they have a whole system (not just their fellow cops) backing them up, that they are “doing their job”—doing what’s expected and demanded of them—when they brutalize and kill Black and Latino people.

Black women who, like Sandra Bland, do not “know their place,” are especially out of bounds of the rules of this system and its enforcers. They face even more savagery and contempt. Encinia became infuriated when Sandra Bland would not kiss his ass. She was the kind of woman who didn’t take his shit, the kind of Black woman racists in the South and elsewhere used to call “uppity.” She did not ask “how high” when Encinia told her to jump. She did not “yes sir, no sir” him. She told him she “couldn’t wait” until she saw him in court.

All of the above contributed to how “switching lanes with no turn signal” turned into “all this”—to Sandra being arrested, brutalized, jailed, and murdered.

And all of the above adds up to a system that cops like Brian Encinia—and Glenn Smith, the thoroughly and openly racist sheriff of Waller County—know will back them up when they beat and arrest people. Just like it has backed up the cop who shot down Michael Brown when he had his hands in the air; like it backed up the cop who choked Eric Garner to death on a New York street in broad daylight; like it backed up the cop who jumped on a car hood and fired over a dozen bullets into the bodies of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in Cleveland.

The non-prosecutions of these and other murdering police do a lot more than exonerate the particular cops—unacceptable and outrageous as that is. They encourage and promote the same behavior among all cops. The only thing these killer cops have to do to get away with murder is say the magic words—they “felt threatened,” or they were “assaulted.”

Everyone involved in the death of Sandra Bland—from the cops, to the DA, to the coroners, to the jailers, to the sheriff, is part of a chain of actions, complicity, and cover-up; every one of them is responsible for her MURDER. Every single one of them had a bloody hand in killing her, no matter how much they try to pass off responsibility, point in the direction of others, and most of all, make Sandra Bland somehow responsible for her own death.

But even more, the entire GODDAMN SYSTEM is behind the murder of Sandra Bland in a lonely Texas jail cell. We live in a system that cannot do without the oppression of Black people, and it enforces this oppression through brutality, repression, mass incarceration, and outright murder.

There is a plague, an epidemic, of police terror in this country. It is especially virulent in Black and Latino communities. Hyped-up fascist police like Brian Encinia are just “doing their job” when they inflict terror upon people and entire communities whom this system fears because it has no future, no use for them.

Shameless Lies and Cover-up

The “official story” coming from all those involved in the murder of Sandra Bland has been full of lies, deceit, misdirection, and manipulation. It is a shameless and shameful cover-up that doesn’t even pretend to be a serious attempt at finding out what actually happened in that miserable county jail.

Elton Mathis, the DA of Waller County, said he was treating the cell where Sandra Bland was held as a “crime scene.” Bullshit! Countless people have trampled all over this cell! Pictures taken of it at different times by different journalists show different scenes. Channel 2 in Houston reported that they had “exclusive video from inside the Waller County jail cell where Sandra Bland was found dead.” A large trash can, with a plastic bag in it, is visible in this video—so did jail staff replace the bag that Sandra supposedly hanged herself with? Isn’t that “tampering with evidence”?

No one has come up with any reports of interrogation of the sheriff and jail staff about what happened to Sandra Bland when she was in their clutches from Friday afternoon until Monday morning. No video has been released of what happened to Sandra once she was in jail. Why have none of these cops, prosecutors, and sheriffs been questioned, brought before investigators and made to explain what went on with Sandra Bland from the time she was arrested on Friday afternoon until she died Monday morning? Why haven’t they been forced to account for every minute of the time she was in their deadly clutches?

The police claim that Sandra was suicidal—yet, even by their own admission they did nothing for days to see that she was provided with any medical attention. They didn’t look after her well-being even according to their own county jail standards. And now we’re supposed to believe that Sandra Bland—someone who had told these very cops “see you in court,” someone who in no way indicated to anyone she loved and cared for that she was reaching her limits—suddenly killed herself?

In his official affidavit of the arrest, Encinia portrayed himself as the victim of an assault by Sandra Bland, and in this he was fully backed by Elton Mathis, the Waller County DA. Encinia made the utterly false claim that Sandra Bland “began swinging her elbows at me and then kicked my right leg in the shin. I had a pain in my right leg and suffered small cuts on my right hand.... Force was used to subdue Bland to the ground to which Bland continued to fight back.”

Encinia’s lies never would have come to light if Sandra Bland’s friends and family hadn’t forced the issue of her death into the light of day, and if a bystander hadn’t recorded some of Encinia’s assault of Sandra. But Waller County authorities fully backed Encinia, even while they found that he had violated the Texas Department of Safety’s “courtesy policy” and put him on “desk duty.” And the day after Sandra’s body was found, Mathis announced, “Do I believe this is a murder? No. I believe it’s a suicide.”

A lawyer for Sandra Bland’s family recounted some of the many unanswered questions: “Why Sandy had to be asked to put her cigarette out. Why Sandy had to be asked to get out of her car. Why Sandy had to be subject to the officer pointing a taser at her. Why Sandy had to be thrown to the ground and hurt.”

Sandra Bland was a woman found hanging in a jail cell of a county notorious for its racism, even by Texas standards. Its county sheriff, who is in charge of the jail, has a long-established record as a vicious hater and brutalizer of Black people. At least one other person had supposedly hanged himself in this jail, only four years ago. Waller County had one of the highest numbers of lynchings of any county in the U.S. during the years of Jim Crow and open enforcement of “second-class status” for Black people.

This awful and unbearable history is continuing with the murder of Sandra Bland. The stories the Waller County authorities are peddling to explain Sandra Bland’s death are full of holes and cover-ups. So why would anyone take their word when they say Sandra Bland killed herself while in their custody?

The Whole System Is Guilty

Sharon Cooper said about her sister Sandra’s murder, “I’m infuriated and everybody else should be infuriated as well.” This is true about the murder of Sandra Bland, and it is true about the epidemic of police terror, murder by police, and mass incarceration.

Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Rekia Boyd. Freddie Gray. Walter Scott. Now Sandra Bland. And the murderous toll keeps climbing. Any system that does this to people routinely; any system whose “law officers” gun people down, choke them to death, beat and lock them away for nothing; any system whose legal apparatus time after time lets these murderers walk free to do it again—such a system has lost its legitimacy and has no right to exist.

Millions of people are infuriated at the murder of Sandra Bland. Many people reject the claims of the authorities about the events leading up to her death, and many more are skeptical of the “official story.” Millions of people are beginning to see the connection between the murder of Sandra Bland and the endless drumbeat of murder by police taking place all across this country.

The murder of Sandra Bland is utterly outrageous and unacceptable. The truth of what happened to her during those three nightmare days of her jailing must come out. The people responsible for her death must be indicted and prosecuted.

What is most needed right now is for many, many people to get into this fight. To take sides, and wage ferocious struggle against the entire barrage of attacks by police and racist vigilantes upon Black people.

In a recent statement, Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party posed the challenge we confront: “All this faces us all with an urgent question: Which side are you on? Are you on the side of the savage oppression and brutality this system enforces on Black people? Or do you stand against these kinds of horrors?”

Use your righteous anger and determination to fight for justice for Sandra Bland, and to stop all the outrages of police brutality and murder perpetrated by this system. Be part of preparing for and participating in powerful outpourings during #RiseUpOctober to STOP Police Terror—Which Side Are You On?, especially October 24 in New York City.





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