A 21st Century Lynching

Suppressed Sandra Bland Video Comes to Light

| revcom.us


On July 13, 2015, Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old Black woman, was found hanging in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas.

On May 7 – almost four years after Sandra’s death – a long-suppressed video Sandra took with her phone as she was arrested has finally come to light. An investigative reporter with WFAA in Dallas recently obtained the video and showed it separately to her sisters and to the family lawyer. It is a key piece of evidence that none of them had seen before. For three-and-a-half years it was in the hands of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

A 21st Century Lynching

Sandra Bland graduated from Prairie View A&M University, a historically Black institution in Waller County. She was returning there from her home in Chicago. She was happy about going back to reunite with old friends and take up a new job.

But after she turned onto the drive leading to the campus, she was pulled over by a Texas state trooper, Brian Encinia. He claimed she hadn’t used a turn signal to change lanes. Within moments, Encinia brutalized and mocked Sandra Bland. He threatened her with his Taser and snarled, “Get out of the car! I will light you up! Get out! Now!” He dragged her out of her car and threw her on the ground. He arrested her and charged her with felony assault on an officer.

From the beginning, police and prosecutors worked feverishly to cover up the truth about Sandra Bland’s arrest, time in their custody, and the circumstances of her death. They charged her with being the aggressor. They released an obviously tampered video of the jail cell they held her in. They declared the cell to be a “crime scene,” but then allowed reporters to trample through it. They claimed Sandra was “suicidal,” but did nothing to provide medical attention. No testimony of what were claimed to be interviews of jail personnel was ever released to Sandra Bland’s lawyers. Her friends and family, with whom she had been in steady communication, were not called to testify to the grand jury investigating the case. Her DNA was not found on the cloth around her neck. Jail logs were falsified. As Shante Needham, one of her sisters, said, “…they have an extremely, extremely good cover-up system.”

Say Her Name: Sandra Bland

The authorities claimed Sandra had committed suicide. But her family, many Prairie View students, and thousands of people across the country fighting to end murder by cop refused to accept the official story. The fight for Justice for Sandra Bland became a cornerstone of the fight to end murder and brutality of Black people by the police.

Encinia was investigated for perjury. He claimed Sandra put his “safety in jeopardy, at more than one time,” and this is why he brutalized and arrested her. But the perjury case never went to trial. A cash settlement was paid to Sandra Bland’s family, and Encinia was barred from being employed in law enforcement.

When Waller County prosecutors dismissed the charge against Encinia, the lawyer for Sandra’s family, Cannon Lambert, told reporters the family was “completely blindsided.” He said Sandra’s mother and sisters had told Texas prosecutors they wanted to go ahead with the trial, and prosecutors told them they would.

The System at Work

But the cover-up and kangaroo court went even deeper.

The video Sandra Bland courageously took shows Encinia harassing and assaulting her with a torrent of physical and verbal abuse. If Sandra’s video had been available to the family and their lawyers, they would have insisted that the prosecution of Encinia go forward. But prosecutors and the Texas state police concealed and suppressed the recording, and lied to Sandra’s family. Shante Needham said, “This [Sandra’s video] not only shows that he [Encinia] lied, but that he really had no business even stopping her. Period. And at the end of the day, he needs to go to jail.”

The video shows that Encinia was in no way threatened by Sandra Bland, that she was holding a cell phone in plain view, and was in fact recording him as he assailed her. He lied, and his lies were covered up by the Texas Department of Public Safety and the office of the Texas Attorney General, which defended him.

From a routine traffic stop to a young woman hanging in a county jail; from a lying cop who walks free, to brutal prison guards; to a racist district attorney’s office; to state police who oversee suppression of evidence, put a video of the arrest in deep storage for years, and a Christian Fascist attorney general who oversees the entire cover-up.

This is the system at work. This is a system in which white supremacy and police brutality are integral components. A system which has no legitimacy and no right to exist.

Sandra Bland recorded her arrest. The video has been suppressed for almost four years by Texas authorities.

Sandra Bland

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