Sandra Bland, Texas activists don’t forget her


This video from Texas, USA is called Sandra Bland Mass Action Waller County 08.09.15.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Sandra Bland activists maintain jail vigil despite dimming media spotlight

Activists make regular trips Waller County facility to celebrate Bland’s life and ‘ask the questions in person that her family and friends are asking’

Tom Dart in Hempstead, Texas

Thursday 3 September 2015 12.00 BST

The hourlong drive from Houston to the Waller County jail has become a regular commute for Hannah Bonner.

Since the death of Sandra Bland on 13 July, the United Methodist reverend has kept vigil outside the building almost every day, joined by others who are determined to honour Bland’s life and promote her legacy, long after the national gaze moved elsewhere and despite an ongoing investigation with few if any answers.

No one could deny that Bland’s death has prompted visible change at the jail. New barriers were erected in front of the building, eliminating the ability to sit or stand by the wall where protesters tended to gather because the overhanging roof made it the best place to find shade.

Bonner sometimes sat in a folding chair and strummed a guitar. Others brought posters, food and water. They used the jail’s restrooms. There were candles and statuettes of angels, and photographs of Bland. Bonner said people sought refuge from the summer sun and 100F temperatures under a tree in the parking lot. Last month, it was cut down.

Now, signs either side of the reflective-glass entry doors insist on “no loitering in the lobby”. The sheriff’s patience appeared to run out after 9 August – the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri – when protesters entered [see video] and chanted for several minutes until officers forced them outside.

A day later, Bonner filmed the sheriff, Glenn Smith, telling her: “Why don’t you go back to the church of Satan that you run?” The next day she found temporary barricades had been erected by the wall along with signs saying “no one beyond this point”. Later in the month they were replaced with yellow and brown metal railings. She said the sheriff has taken pictures of her license plate.

A spokesman for the Waller County sheriff’s office did not respond to a request for comment. …

But most days are quiet now. On Tuesday, Bonner and Karisha Shaw, a Houston-based school worker, were there in the rain. “Our presence here is to keep the attention on Sandra Bland,” Bonner said. “We don’t really have answers to what happened to Sandra Bland and we might never know, but we do know she should never have been in this jail.”

Bonner said she has made the journey from Houston on all but four or five days since activists started showing up at the jail 50 days ago, emphasising that she is not a protester but part of a “peaceful prayer vigil here to honour Sandra Bland’s life and to ask the questions in person that her family and friends are asking”.

Bland was found dead on 13 July. The official account – that she hanged herself in cell 95 using a trash bag, three days after being arrested when a routine traffic stop turned into a confrontation with a state trooper – was hotly disputed. Her family and many on social media found it implausible

The 28-year-old’s death underlined strained relationships between African Americans and law enforcement, both in the context of the number of black people killed by police across the country and locally in this rural county with a history of racism.

Bland was moving from Chicago to start a job at the majority-black Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater. Flowers are still by the roadside at the spot where she was stopped on University Drive, near the campus.

Last week, the Prairie View city council voted to rename the road Sandra Bland Parkway for at least the next couple of years. A sign near the flowers in front of a balding patch of grass announces the “future home of the proposed Sandra Bland memorial park”. …

Bonner said: “Black Lives Matter is not about hating white people, it’s about loving black people, and if you feel [loving both races is] mutually exclusive, then that’s where the problem in our country lies.”

Legal processes are still pending and information about the fallout from Bland’s death is scarce. Brian Encinia, the trooper involved, was placed on administrative leave after video emerged of him threatening to “light up” Bland with a taser during the traffic stop.

A spokesperson for the Texas department of public safety (DPS) said that an investigation into his conduct is “ongoing”. The Waller County district attorney’s office, which said in July that it would present evidence on Encinia’s conduct to a grand jury for possible indictment, did not respond to a request for comment.

“We’re very, very disturbed at the fact that they [DPS] still have not terminated that man,” said Cannon Lambert, the Bland family’s attorney. “This situation is very public – transparency is huge. If there’s a reason why you’re keeping him on staff … then you should tell us.”

Last month, Texas lawmakers announced an investigation into jail safety standards and Bland’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against parties including the sheriff’s office, two jailers and Encinia. Lambert said the legal action means officials will have to provide them with information about the case, including details that will allow an independent autopsy to be completed.

Bland’s family has called for the US justice department to become involved, though that has not happened so far.

Pledging transparency, Smith, the sheriff, asked Paul Looney, a local attorney, to form a committee to conduct an independent investigation of the sheriff’s office. Looney said that the six-member panel had held several meetings, each person was working several hours a week to gather “impressions, observations and data” and that he is “completely” happy with the level of cooperation from the department.

“We’ve got access to every piece of paper they have, every prisoner, every deputy,” he said. “We’re not going to discuss anything [publicly] until we have a report ready.”

When will Bonner and others feel the time is right to stop coming? “We are looking for where that point is,” she said. “I told her sisters: ‘I’ll do this as long as you need me to’… What keeps me going is her videos, her goofy pictures with her family, her sense of what they’ve lost. I can think she’s freaking hilarious and amazing and I’ll never get to meet her.”

Texas police kill ‘man with hands up’


This video from the USA says about itself:

Texas Deputies Kill Unarmed Man. Gilbert Flores Killed by Texas Police (UNEDITED VIDEO)

1 September 2015

More about this video is here.

From KSAT.com in Texas, USA about this:

ACLU issues statement on BCSO deputy-involved shooting

Bexar County deputies fatally shot Gilbert Flores Friday

By Robert Taylor – Web – News Editor

Posted: 12:26 PM, September 01, 2015

Updated: 6:42 PM, September 01, 2015

SAN ANTONIO – The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas issued a statement Tuesday on the fatal shooting of Gilbert Flores by two Bexar County Sheriff’s Office deputies.

The deputies shot and killed Flores Friday while responding to a domestic disturbance report.

KSAT 12 obtained and has released a witness video of the shooting on its website, showing the moment the shooting took place.

Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas Terri Burke issued the following statement:

“The video of Gilbert Flores’ fatal shooting by two deputies of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office raises serious concerns over whether these officers used force that was proportional to the circumstances. Like other events that that we’ve seen across the country involving interactions with law enforcement, this one points to a troubling trend of overzealous and abusive policing. The video doesn’t show every aspect of the interaction, but it certainly raises serious questions about whether the level of force was constitutionally permissible. We call on the Sheriff’s department and the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office to conduct a transparent investigation and hold any wrongdoers accountable.”

ACLU of Texas Senior Policy Strategist Matt Simpson issued this statement:

“Were it not for the footage captured by a concerned member of the public, Texans would have no record of yet another interaction with police that turned deadly. To provide more objective evidence of police encounters, all law-enforcement agencies should adopt use of body-worn cameras. Though not a complete solution for incidents of deterring officer or civilian misconduct, body-worn cameras would enable law enforcement to become more transparent to the public, promote police accountability, and help ensure interactions with community members are fair and lawful.”

Rep. Joaquin Castro (Texas-20) also talked about the need for more body cameras in his statement on the shooting, released Tuesday.

“The encounter is extremely disturbing as it appears to show an unarmed man with his hands up being shot by a deputy. This incident is further evidence that police officers and deputies should wear body cameras. The widely-supported technology brings transparency and accountability that protects law enforcement and civilians alike. With regard to the specific case in San Antonio, I trust that District Attorney Nico LaHood will pursue an indictment if all the evidence merits it,” Castro said.

See also here. And here.

Texas Christians march for justice for Sandra Bland


Christian demonstrators for justice for Sandra Bland

From the United Church of Christ in the USA:

Texas ministers join justice rally for Sandra Bland

September 01, 2015

Written by Anthony Moujaes

A trio of United Church of Christ ministers in Texas carried banners for justice, joining residents of Waller County in a public demonstration calling for justness in the death of Sandra Bland, a black woman who died while in police custody in July in that county’s jail near Houston.

What they discovered was the StillSpeaking God in an unexpected place, as march participants chanted “Sandy still speaks”. The Rev. Lynette Ross and the Rev. Ginny Brown Daniel say they were “struck by that phrase to the similarity of our own mantra in the United Church of Christ that ‘God is Still Speaking.'”

“Indeed God was still speaking as we marched to the town hall,” Brown Daniel said.

Rev. Lynette Ross and Rev. Ginny Brown Daniel for justice for Sandra Bland

On Aug. 20, the Rev. Dan De Leon, pastor of Friends Congregational Church UCC, in College Station, went to the jail where Bland died and to the site of her arrest. Five days later, Aug. 25, Ross, pastor of Cathedral of Hope-Houston, and Brown Daniel, a UCC minister and president of Divine Sparks, Consulting, marched in the Solidarity with Sandy Walk to protest Bland’s death. The walk began at Bland’s alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, and ended at the Prairie View Town Hall, where the City Council voted to change the name of the road where Bland was arrested from University Drive to the Sandra Bland Parkway.

The circumstances of Bland’s death have been disputed. She was pulled over on July 10 for a minor traffic violation, and was arrested after the interaction between her and a state trooper became heated. Three days later, police found her dead in her jail cell. Believing she had hanged herself, the county coroner ruled her death a suicide. Bland’s family doesn’t believe that version of events, and is awaiting the results of an independent autopsy.

Prayer vigils have been held at the Waller County jail since Bland’s death, and a district attorney said that her death is being investigated as a murder.

“Sandra’s prophetic voice was disarming, and it needs to be, De Leon said. “There was a print that read, ‘Always be loving,’ placed right next to a poster with the words, ‘May you have no peace until justice is served.’ For me, this resembles the paradox of the cross of Christ—a visible intersection of love and justice. Sandra’s memorial reminds us that we need to keep going to those places where love and justice meet if we truly desire to see God’s transformative power topple racism and the racist systems that still plague not just Waller County, but our very hearts and minds.

Ross and Brown Daniel said that local residents told them that before Bland’s death many African-American men and women in Waller County had been unfairly pulled over by the police and subsequently arrested. “The only difference this time is that it was recorded and has made the national news because of her death, they said.

“It was as if the spirits of those who have endured oppressive and violent racism in Waller County, Texas, surrounded us as stories were shared about political injustice and voter rights denial, Brown Daniel said.

The Waller County sheriff, who has called protesters members of the “church of Satan,” ordered the tree where protesters gathered for shade to be cut down, according to Bland supporters, preventing protesters any reprieve from the summer heat.

Ross said, “Christ’s mandate to all of us is that we are called to walk shoulder-to-shoulder together as brothers and sisters, speaking truth to power, liberating the oppressed, caring for the poor, comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable. We are the United Church of Christ!”

Although the ministers weren’t aware of the county’s history, they vowed to preach, march, and advocate with the residents of Prairie View. One of those people they met, a woman named Karisha, told them that Bland’s life is stirring up her own faith again and fueling her passion for justice and opening her heart to humanity.

“This is the people that God has called us to be as the South Central Conference of the United Church of Christ—a Church that will unapologetically go to those places where love and justice meet, no matter how uncomfortable those places might be, until oppression gives way to equality, Brown Daniel said. “God is still speaking.”

Sandra Bland gets street name in Texas, USA


Students at Sandra Bland's alma mater, Prairie View A & M University, organized a march in her honour

From ABC in the USA:

Texas street renamed for Sandra Bland

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 11:36PM

A Texas city is renaming a street in memory of Sandra Bland, a Naperville woman found dead in her jail cell last month.

The street is located on the campus of Bland’s alma mater, Prairie View A& M University, and will be called Sandra Bland Parkway.

Earlier Tuesday, students at Prairie View A& M University marked Tuesday night in her honor.

Bland, who was in a Texas jail for three days after being arrested during a traffic stop, is an alum of Prairie View.

Texas officials said the woman committed suicide, but her family disputes that.

From KHOU.com in Texas:

PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas — Sandra Bland’s mother applauded the decision on Tuesday to rename “University Drive” to “Sandra Bland Parkway” in honor of her daughter.

“I am excited,” Geneva Reed-Veal said. “I am overwhelmed, and I am just truly thankful.”

Another resident said it was just a small start.

“This is something that in the very least should happen so that her name remains as a symbol of the greater good,” David Palmer said.

To many people, Sandra Bland’s name will forever be synonymous with a struggle on the side of the road that sparked a movement.

“If that starts dialogue to say what it means for police accountability, for jail accountability, for community accountability to speak up, then it’s a great thing, and I support that,” said resident Sylvia Cedillo.

Also from KHOU.com:

PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas — City council members hope renaming the stretch of road after Sandra Bland serves as a constant reminder of the injustices they say she suffered in Waller County.

They also hope it’s a reminder for law enforcement to always follow best practices when making stops on University Drive.

Her mother Geneva Reed-Veal says she could not have imagined Prairie View City Council passing the resolution it did.

“I am overwhelmed, and I am just truly thankful to the city of Prairie View,” Reed-Veal said in a press conference after the decision.

Bland’s name will be seen from the entrance of Prairie View A&M to US-Business 290. Bland was stopped on this very road nearly six weeks ago by a trooper for making an illegal lane change. She was eventually taken to jail and found days later hanging in her cell.

“This is the first step, the very first step,” Reed-Veal said. “There’s still so much more that needs to be done.”

Some felt this debate should have been pushed back.

“You have very few citizens that actually live here that are actually here today to see what’s going on,” said Paulette Matthews-Barnett, a city council member. “Maybe it should’ve been called ‘Memorial Parkway,’ that way, we’d include everybody and not just one.”

Still family members say this vote has meaning.

“We feel the big hug from Prairie View from the citizens that say we stand in solidarity with you,” said Sharon Cooper, Sandra’s sister.

The new name for this road will last three to five years before it’s taken up for a vote again.

There will also be a park dedicated in Bland’s honor not far from the college, and the mayor has asked Prairie View A&M students to come up with an architectural plan for it.

Ohio: What happened after a black motorist was stopped for making ‘direct eye contact’: here.

Black youth dies in Virginia jail cell after being held four months for alleged $5 theft: here.

Sandra Bland commemoration, 26 August


Sandra Bland

By Fatima Mann in the USA:

#SandyStillSpeaks – Waller County vigil, on August 26, 2015 at 7:30 pm.

Hey love would you mind sharing this email to as many people as you can please?

My name is Fatima Mann and I live in Austin, Texas. I went to Prairie View, Texas which is the town Sandra Bland was arrested in. I went to figure out how I can help, I met and hugged her mom. I told her mom I was going to do everything I can to get justice for her daughter. Me emailing you is one of the things I am doing in order to get justice for Sandra Bland.

Sandra Bland said, “It’s time y’all. It’s time. This thing that I’m holding in my hand. This telephone. This camera. It’s quite powerful. Social media is powerful. We can do something with this. If we want a change, we can really, truly make it happen. We sit out here and talk about how we need the next so and so, and this and that. No you don’t! . . . . God has opened my eyes and shown me, there is truly something that we can do . . . . It’s time to stop knowing that “that was going to happen” and it’s time to start doing something… I need you. I need y’all’s help. I can’t do this by myself.”

Let’s come together to pay homage, come together as a community, and get justice for all those killed without justice. Let us unite to help Sandra Bland get justice for herself, and all those killed by police or in police custody. Every city has a Sandra Bland, someone treated in a harsh manner when arrested. Someone who was someone’s daughter, son, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, and friend. We all have heard of someone in our city, town, county, state, or country who has been treated harshly for their difference and even killed. Join us on August 26th in your city, and pay homage to those taken to soon without justice. Let us hear from the mothers of those who won’t spend another holiday with their child. Let us come together under candlelight to get justice for all those killed unjustly.

Have a vigil in your city, town, county, state, and country on August 26, 2015 at 7:30 pm your time. If you are in Austin we will be having our own vigil starting. Invite every positive social justice organization in your community to help support the event. We have worked to keep her name in social media for thirty days. I’ve been posting positive messages with the same three hash tags for the last week. We have to continue to post positive, informing, and affirming messages until August, 26. Until the day of the vigil.

#JusticeforSandraBland
#blacklivesmatter
#translivesmatter
#sayhername
#SandyStillSpeaks

Road named after Sandra Bland in Texas, USA?


Sandra Bland (Photo: Family photo)

From KHOU.com in Texas, USA:

Proposal to rename Prairie View A&M thoroughfare ‘Sandy Bland Parkway’

PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas – Prairie View students will join with family and friends of Sandra Bland in a “Walk of Solidarity” next week.

On August 25 at 4:27 p.m., walkers will meet at the City of Prairie View’s City Hall, where the council will vote on a measure to rename the main thoroughfare leading to Prairie View A&M University, Sandy Bland Parkway.

The walk will depart from the Memorial Student Center on campus and proceed south one mile on University Drive to Business Highway U.S. 290 East.

The council action is the first item on the mayor’s agenda. The council meeting will begin at 6 p.m.

Inside the Struggle for Justice at the Texas Jailhouse Where Sandra Bland Died. It’s been more than a month since Bland was found dead in a Texas jail cell, and the truth remains elusive: here.

Prisoner abuse scandal in Texas, USA


This video from Texas in the USA says about itself:

On July 23, 2015 Austin residents held a candlelight vigil for Sandra Bland that started at the historic Victory Grill and ended at the state capitol. Sandra was found dead in a Waller County, Texas jail cell of an alleged suicide. However, her family, friends, and most of the public have questions surrounding her death which has caught the attention of the world. Sandra was a vocal activist who spoke out against social injustices and police brutality.

From Click2Houston.com in the USA:

Community leaders release video showing inmate beating at Washington County Jail

Author: Nakia Cooper, Sr. Web Editor

Published On: Aug 20 2015 03:32:17 PM CDT Updated On: Aug 20 2015 10:16:16 PM CDT

HOUSTON – Surveillance video appearing to show a Washington County jailer assaulting a college student has been released to the public.

Minister Quanell X, the New Black Panther Nation and New Black Muslims leaders joined Bishop James Dixon, other community leaders, family, friends, and supporters gathered at Community of Faith Church Thursday in support of Gregory Webb.

Webb, who was a Blinn College student at the time, was pulled over for a traffic stop in August 2013 and was arrested for possession of marijuana, and booked into the Washington County Jail.

“This young man was pulled over, he went to jail for possession of marijuana. Many college students experiment with marijuana, not a drug dealer amount, just a joint amount,” Quanell X said at the press conference.

The activist said that while Webb was in jail, he got into a verbal confrontation with Deputy Christopher Kulow, a jailer who was attempting to harass and intimidate him.

“Deputy Kulow did not like what this young man had said to him and he wanted to show this young man who was in charge, who was the boss,” Quanell X said.

During that time, Kulow and another deputy took Webb out of his cell and placed him in a restraint chair.

Webb’s hands and feet were strapped down, his head was strapped down and his chest was strapped to the chair.

Kulow allegedly kicked the chair on its side and got on top of Webb, then began punching him in the face. A surveillance camera captured the incident.

“Deputy Kulow is boom, boom, boom, and then after that third lick, the others deputies grab him and pull him off of him,” Quanell X said. “This is the first time where I’ve seen deputies, even the janitorial service, came forth and called the DA’s Office.”

Quanell X said janitors and the deputies who witnessed the assault testified that they knew it was wrong.

Kulow was found guilty of official oppression for violating the civil rights of Webb.

Quanell X said he was surprised by the outcome of Webb’s case.

“I didn’t think in that rural small Texas town that an all-white jury would come back and find a white deputy guilty of anything against a young African American male, but that jury took its time, the district attorney was dynamic and they came back with a guilty verdict,” Quanell X said. “[It was] the first time in Washington County’s history that a cop has been found guilty of misconduct, abuse on any level against an African American person, male or female.”

Quanell X said the deputies admitted that they thought the camera was broken. It had been fixed just a few days before.

“This happens too often. The outcries that have been made by the public around the nation are legitimate outcries. There are people who have been victimized by injustice in the criminal justice systems and in jails who have not yet been heard,” Dixon said. “I tremble to think what if we did not have a fixed camera. A broken camera is all that we needed not to ever have known the story that Mr. Webb had endured.”

Bishop Dixon said there is a thin line between the cameras and reality.

“Today, we are here to shed light on reality that this is a human life. We say ‘all lives matter and black lives matter,’ but I want us to understand that cameras matter,” Dixon said.

Quanell X said this type of behavior is the reason why so many people are skeptical about Sandra Bland’s death.

“This just goes to show why so many African Americans believe that something happened to Sandra Bland inside that jail. Because Washington County is right next door to Waller County,” Quanell X said. “This is why so many African Americans are not trustful, have no faith and confidence in what’s coming out of Waller County because we know what they do to our young people in jail. He [Webb] is a living testimony of what happened in that jail.”

The brutal police crackdown of a peaceful gathering of roughly 100 people near the site of the police murder of black 18-year-old Mansur Ball-Bey in a residential suburb of north St. Louis has once again brought to the surface the underlying drive toward police state rule in the US. In the recent period, the First Amendment guarantee of “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” has been steadily stripped of its meaning, along with other democratic rights spelled out in the US Constitution: here.

U.S. police forces are so out of control there’s not even a reliable database on how many times police officers shoot citizens. So, beyond racism and fear of guns, the problem includes fragmentation in law enforcement and gaps in training among the 18,000 police agencies in the 50 states, notes Daniel Lazare: here.