“We Have No Reason to Trust the Police”: Sandra Bland Arrest Video Reignites Anger over Her Death

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The family of Sandra Bland is calling for authorities to reopen the investigation into her death. The 28-year-old African-American woman died in a Texas jail cell in 2015, three days after she was arrested for allegedly failing to signal a lane change. Authorities have claimed Sandra Bland committed suicide while in jail by hanging herself with a garbage bag, but her family has long rejected this claim. On Monday, the Dallas TV station WFAA aired cellphone video filmed by Bland capturing the moment when she was pulled over. In the 39-second video, you can see the officer, Brian Encinia, drawing his stun gun and saying, “I will light you up.”

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AMY GOODMAN: The family of Sandra Bland is calling for authorities to reopen its investigation into her death. The 28-year-old African-American woman died in a Texas jail cell in 2015, three days after she was arrested for allegedly failing to signal a lane change. Authorities have claimed Sandra Bland took her own life while in jail by hanging herself with a garbage bag, but her family has long rejected this claim. On Monday, the Dallas TV station WFAA aired cellphone video, filmed by Sandra Bland herself, capturing the moment when she was pulled over. In the 39-second video, you can see the officer, Brian Encinia, drawing his stun gun and saying, “I will light you up.”

BRIAN ENCINIA: Get out of the car! Now!

SANDRA BLAND: Why am I being apprehended? You’re trying to give me a ticket for a failure—

BRIAN ENCINIA: I said get out of the car!

SANDRA BLAND: Why am I being apprehended? You just opened my car door.

BRIAN ENCINIA: I am giving you a lawful order.

SANDRA BLAND: You just opened my car door.

BRIAN ENCINIA: I am going to drag you out of here.

SANDRA BLAND: So, you’re going to—you’re threatening to drag me out of my own car.

BRIAN ENCINIA: Get out of the car!

SANDRA BLAND: And then you’re going to stun me?

BRIAN ENCINIA: I will light you up! Get out!

SANDRA BLAND: Wow!

BRIAN ENCINIA: Now!

SANDRA BLAND: Wow! Wow!

BRIAN ENCINIA: Get out of the car!

SANDRA BLAND: Really? For a failure to signal. You’re doing all of this for a failure to signal.

BRIAN ENCINIA: Get over there!

SANDRA BLAND: Right, yeah. Yeah, let’s take this to court. Let’s do it.

BRIAN ENCINIA: Go ahead!

SANDRA BLAND: For a failure to signal. Yeah, for a failure to signal!

BRIAN ENCINIA: Get off the phone!

SANDRA BLAND: On my school!

BRIAN ENCINIA: Get off the phone!

SANDRA BLAND: I’m not on the phone. I have a right to record.

BRIAN ENCINIA: Put your phone down.

SANDRA BLAND: This is my property.

BRIAN ENCINIA: Put your phone down!

SANDRA BLAND: This is my property. Sir?

BRIAN ENCINIA: Put your phone down! Right now!

AMY GOODMAN: Attorneys for the Bland family say the cellphone video proves the officer lied when he had claimed he felt his safety was in jeopardy when he pulled over Sandra Bland. Now, she was then put in jail. She couldn’t afford the $500 bail; I think it was like $5,000 bond. In jail for three days, and then they say she took her own life, which her family disputes. Mary Hooks?

MARY HOOKS: This is unacceptable. And the same ways in which our people do not and have every right to distrust the police, that same level of distrust is also for the court system. And I know in my soul that every DA prosecutor and anybody else who put their hands on this case and investigated this case, they knew about the cellphone video. They knew that she was not a threat. They knew that his life was not in danger. And they manipulated the laws and rules on his behalf in order for him to get a sweet deal and eventually get his charges dismissed. I believe that he eventually signed a letter saying, “I will never work in law enforcement again.” And this is unacceptable.

And so, inasmuch as we are in a time where people think that we are moving up, bending the arc, as it relates to police and their relationship to black communities, let us not be fooled. We have no reason to trust the police or the cops or the courts, and we have to make sure that we take care of ourselves and that we support and take care of our own people, and that until further notice, we should continue to make sure we demand justice for people who are stuck in cages because they cannot afford bail, because their lives are at stake.

And we oftentimes see, you know, for folks who are sitting in cages, the decimation of their health, whether that’s through the killing by guards, that’s the abuse that is happening. Right now I’m sitting in Fulton County, and we have a jail here called Union City, and there is a lawsuit that has been filed against them, because women are showering in black mold. Their throats are swollen. They have masks over their face. They’re being abused in so many ways. Those who experience mental health are literally stuffed in a cage and never come out. And never come out. And so, this—this breaks my heart, as someone who has been in that situation before. I’ve had my face beaten by the police before.

And so I think we have to continue to dispel that myth that the police provide some level of public safety. Public safety is when our people have adequate housing, adequate jobs that are dignified, that people can thrive and have wellness. That is how we get public safety, and anything else is a lie. And so, I send my condolences to Sandra Bland’s family and all the people who have lost their loved ones to heinous police violence and corrections officers’ violence, and all those who have participated in situations like this where we know that justice have not been served. And the reality of it is, we know that can never be found in this criminal injustice system.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Mary Hooks, I want to thank you so much for being with us, co-director of Southerners on New Ground, or SONG, which is part of the National Bail Out collective and the Movement for Black Lives. She is an organizer of National Black Mama’s Bail Out Day, which is Mother’s Day, on Sunday.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the NRA in turmoil. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Cariñito” by the acclaimed Mexican singer Lila Downs, performing here in our Democracy Now! studio. Check out her interview and music at democracynow.org.

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