Sandra Bland’s death in Texas in context


This 17 July 2015 video from the USA is called Outrage Grows After Mysterious Death of #BlackLivesMatter Activist Sandra Bland in Texas Jail.

On Saturday, hundreds of family members, friends and supporters attended the funeral of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old African American woman found hanged in a Waller County, Texas jail cell on July 13, three days after being arrested during a traffic stop. The funeral was held at her lifelong church, DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Lisle, Ill., outside Chicago. … At Bland’s funeral, her family upheld her character, while maintaining that she would never harm herself. The last speaker was Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, who emphatically declared, “That baby did not take herself out of here”: here.

Texas county where inmate [Sandra Bland] died has history of racial tension: here.

Texas County’s Racial Past Is Seen as Prelude to Sandra Bland’s Death: here.

Take a short glance back into the legacy of Waller County and it’s no wonder that by the time 28-year-old Sandra Bland’s body was recovered in a jail cell here, the public’s faith in its institutions was already long-compromised: here.

Hundreds attend Waller County prayer vigil for Sandra Bland: here.

Heartbreaking images from Sandra Bland’s funeral: here.

One More Reason Sandra Bland’s Jail Cell Death Is Unusual. Why people like Sandra Bland are among the least likely to resort to suicide in a jail cell: here.

Whatever the circumstances of Sandra Bland’s death, blood is on the hands of the police: here.

The official account of how a black Illinois woman ended up dead in a Texas jail doesn’t stack up, says KELLY SINCLAIR: here.

A Native American activist was recently arrested and found dead in jail under conditions very similar to those of Sandra Bland in Texas. Rexdale W. Henry, 53, was recently found dead inside the Neshoba County Jail in Philadelphia, Mississippi, on July 14th: here.

Sandra Bland funeral in the USA


This video from the USA is called Sandra Bland Funeral – Draws Hundreds Of Mourners In Illinois. It says about itself:

25 July 2015

Sandra Bland Funeral: Hundreds have been attending the funeral in Illinois of Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas prison cell nearly two weeks ago after being arrested.

From NBC News in the USA:

Mourners Attend Illinois Funeral for Sandra Bland Who Died in Texas Jail

by Elizabeth Chuck

July 25 2015, 1:41 pm ET

Sandra Bland, the woman found dead in a Texas jail cell, was remembered Saturday as a courageous fighter for social justice.

Family and friends gathered at her wake and funeral in Lisle, Illinois, the Chicago suburb where she grew up. …

Before the service at the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle, the Rev. Theresa Read said mourners would remember Bland as a “young lady that refused to be subdued and silenced.”

“Our service will be one of celebration. We’ll be celebrating the life of Sandy Bland. We have much to celebrate. We’re happy that she found her voice, found her purpose in social justice. We celebrate that she walked and lived in her truth,” she said

Supporters don’t believe the autopsy findings, she added, saying officials’ account of the incident is “plagued with inconsistencies.”

From the New York Times in the USA:

At Sandra Bland Funeral, Mourning a Life Cut Short in Texas

By MITCH SMITHJULY 25, 2015

LISLE, Ill. — Hundreds of mourners gathered Saturday at the suburban Chicago church that Sandra Bland attended for many of her 28 years, turning out in such numbers that even the overflow viewing room ran out of chairs. From the pulpit, relatives and friends recounted happy memories of Ms. Bland’s faith and social activism, and restated their belief that her death in a Texas jail was no suicide.

“That baby did not take herself out of here,” said Geneva Reed-Veal, Ms. Bland’s mother, during the funeral here at DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Ms. Reed-Veal spoke at length, telling mourners about a recent road trip she had taken with her daughter. On their way to visit relatives in Tennessee, Ms. Reed-Veal said, Ms. Bland told her she had found a calling and planned to pursue it by returning to Texas, where she had attended college.

“Her purpose was to stop all injustice against blacks in the South,” Ms. Reed-Veal said at the funeral.

Many here believe that in seeking to fulfill that newfound purpose, Ms. Bland became another victim of the injustice she wanted to end. Shortly after arriving in Hempstead, Tex., where she had moved to take a job at Prairie View A&M University, the historically black school that was her alma mater, she was pulled over by a state trooper. …

Leaders at DuPage remembered Ms. Bland as a smart, outspoken woman who once sang in the youth choir and had participated in the church’s Girl Scout troop. After graduating from college, she returned here, serving on church committees, befriending older members of the congregation and earning a reputation as a prolific taker of selfie photos.

The Rev. Theresa Dear, an associate minister at DuPage A.M.E. who knew Ms. Bland since she started attending the church as a young girl, said the official account of the death conflicted with her own memories of an ambitious, educated Christian who was excited about the future and who had helped organize the church’s recent Women’s Day event.

“This is someone who had over 50 selfies, healthy self-esteem,” Ms. Dear said in an interview. “Someone who had two job offers. Someone who just talked to her family and knew that help and rescue was on the way. This is someone who knew the Lord and was extremely close with her church family and her sisters, her biological family.

“We’re not funeralizing a martyr or a victim,” said the Rev. James F. Miller, who officiated. “We’re celebrating a hero.”

But the circumstances around her death were discussed openly and repeatedly, and Mr. Miller had harsh words for the Texas officials handling the investigation.

“The authorities in Waller County are going to discover something that I learned and each of us learned at our mother’s knee,” Mr. Miller said from the pulpit. “You can disrespect a strong black woman if you want, but you’re going to pay for that.”

Speaker after speaker encouraged mourners to continue to use social media to seek justice. Twitter hashtags used by activists were printed in the funeral program and displayed by a handful of people on T-shirts. Ms. Reed-Veal also asked that supporters take cues from her and her lawyer on how the family wanted to proceed. She said protesters should not demonstrate outside the home of Brian T. Encinia, the trooper who arrested Ms. Bland.

“We want to do this the right way,” Ms. Reed-Veal said.

Senator Richard J. Durbin and Representative Bill Foster, both Democrats of Illinois, each spoke briefly at the funeral. They said they had asked the Justice Department to investigate Ms. Bland’s death.

Mr. Durbin said the circumstances started with a “highly questionable traffic violation.” Trooper Encinia, of the Texas Department of Public Safety, has said he pulled Ms. Bland over after seeing her change lanes without signaling. Mr. Durbin noted that he had seen plenty of people change lanes without a turn signal during his drive to the church on Saturday.

“It was an amazing life that was cut way, way too short,” Mr. Durbin told the congregation. …

Ms. Bland’s death spurred skepticism and outrage on Twitter, where her name became a trending hashtag invoked alongside tags for Michael Brown, the black 18-year-old killed last year by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., and Freddie Gray, the black man who died this year after being arrested by the Baltimore police.

Members of DuPage A.M.E. held a march in Ms. Bland’s honor last weekend, and demonstrators in Texas have protested her death.

Ms. Bland herself had been active online in recent months, posting videos that called for improvements to race relations in America and questioned how police officers treat black people. She “found her voice in social media and the civil rights realm and space,” Ms. Dear said. …

But on Saturday, even amid all the talk about Ms. Bland’s death, even as white flowers were tossed on her coffin as it was lowered into the earth, those who knew her made an effort to keep a focus on her life. This was the woman everyone here called Sandy, a gifted musician who grew up in the church, loved spicy foods and was just getting settled in her new home in Texas before the arrest.

“Sandy was ours,” Mr. Miller said at the funeral. “We take care of our own. We love her.”

From Reuters:

Her former sorority sisters from her alma mater, Prairies View A&M University, read an obituary highlighting her religious faith and her blogs about social injustice, race politics and police brutality.

Thousands of ‘freedom fighters’ in Cleveland for first national Black Lives Matter conference: here.

Big dinosaur age shark discovery


Cretaceous fossil sharks reconstruction. Credit: Frederickson et al.

From LiveScience:

20-Foot Monster Shark Once Trolled Mesozoic Seas

by Tia Ghose, Senior Writer

June 03, 2015 02:01pm ET

A giant shark the size of a two-story building prowled the shallow seas 100 million years ago, new fossils reveal.

The massive fish, Leptostyrax macrorhiza, would have been one of the largest predators of its day, and may push back scientists’ estimates of when such gigantic predatory sharks evolved, said study co-author Joseph Frederickson, a doctoral candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Oklahoma.

The ancient sea monster was discovered by accident. Frederickson, who was then an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, had started an amateur paleontology club to study novel fossil deposits. In 2009, the club took a trip to the Duck Creek Formation, just outside Fort Worth, Texas, which contains myriad marine invertebrate fossils, such as the extinct squidlike creatures known as ammonites. About 100 million years ago the area was part of a shallow sea known as the Western Interior Seaway that split North America in two and spanned from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic, Frederickson said.

While walking in the formation, Frederickson’s then-girlfriend (now wife), University of Oklahoma anthropology doctoral candidate Janessa Doucette-Frederickson, tripped over a boulder and noticed a large vertebra sticking out of the ground. Eventually, the team dug out three large vertebrae, each about 4.5 inches (11.4 centimeters) in diameter. [See Images of Ancient Monsters of the Sea]

“You can hold one in your hand,” but then nothing else will fit, Frederickson told Live Science.

The vertebrae had stacks of lines called lamellae around the outside, suggesting the bones once belonged to a broad scientific classification of sharks called lamniformes that includes sand tiger sharks, great white sharks, goblin sharks and others, Frederickson said.

After poring over the literature, Frederickson found a description of a similar shark vertebra that was unearthed in 1997 in the Kiowa Shale in Kansas, which also dates to about 100 million years ago. That vertebra came from a shark that was up to 32 feet (9.8 meters) long.

By comparing the new vertebra with the one from Kansas, the team concluded the Texas shark was likely the same species as the Kansas specimen. The Texan could have been at least 20.3 feet (6.2 m) long, though that is a conservative estimate, Frederickson said. (Still, the Texas shark would have been no match for the biggest shark that ever lived, the 60-foot-long, or 18 m, Megalodon.)

By analyzing similar ecosystems from the Mesozoic Era, the team concluded the sharks in both Texas and Kansas were probably Leptostyrax macrorhiza. Previously, the only fossils from Leptostyrax that paleontologists had found were teeth, making it hard to gauge the shark’s true size. The new study, which was published today (June 3) in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests this creature was much bigger than previously thought, Frederickson said.

Still, it’s not certain the new vertebrae belonged to Leptostyrax, said Kenshu Shimada, a paleobiologist at DePaul University in Chicago, who unearthed the 1997 shark vertebra.

“It is also entirely possible that they may belong to an extinct shark with very small teeth so far not recognized in the present fossil record,” Shimada, who was not involved in the current study, told Live Science. “For example, some of the largest modern-day sharks are plankton-feeding forms with minute teeth, such as the whale shark, basking shark and megamouth shark.”

Either way, the new finds change the picture of the Early Cretaceous seas.

Previously, researchers thought the only truly massive predators of the day were the fearsome pliosaurs, long-necked, long-snouted relatives to modern-day lizards that could grow to nearly 40 feet (12 m) in length. Now, it seems the oceans were teeming with enough life to support at least two top predators, Frederickson said.

As for the ancient shark’s feeding habits, they might resemble those of modern great white sharks, who “eat whatever fits in their mouth,” Frederickson said. If these ancient sea monsters were similar, they might have fed on large fish, baby pliosaurs, marine reptiles and even full-grown pliosaurs that they scavenged, Frederickson said.

Sandra Bland died, update


This video, recorded in the USA, says about itself:

Conflicting evidence emerges over the death of Sandra Bland

21 July 2015

The Waller County Sheriff’s Department has released more video of the hours before activist Sandra Bland was found dead in her prison cell following a traffic violation arrest. However, the new footage does not add more to clarity to Bland’s case, and activists and family members are demanding an investigation from the Department of Justice to find answers. Anya Parampil speaks with Michael Hardy, general counsel of the National Action Network, to get an in-depth understanding of this legal situation.

Texas Trooper Had No Right to Ask Sandra Bland to Put Out Her Cigarette. There was nothing lawful about Trooper Encinia’s order: here.

Texas trooper who arrested Sandra Bland abused his authority: here.

Sandra Bland’s Arrest Was So Messed Up, Even Fox News Sees It: here.

Questions Linger After Texas Police Release Sandra Bland Arrest Video: here.

The traffic stop [of Sandra Bland] alone speaks to something black Americans, and minorities generally, have been arguing for decades: when it comes to dealing with the police, only white people are allowed to assert their Constitutional rights: here.

A Texas TV station says it has obtained a voicemail from a call Sandra Bland made from jail in which she told a friend that she couldn’t believe what was happening to her: here.

Sandra Bland and the Long History of Racism in Waller County, Texas: here.

Texas jail where Sandra Bland died has been cited at least five times since 2009: here.

Sandra Bland died, Texas police whitewash continues


This video from the USA says about itself:

‘United We Stand!’ – Protest of Sandra Bland death broken up by police in NYC

23 July 2015

Activists took to the streets of New York City to protest police brutality and the death of Sandra Bland.

By Evan Blake in the USA:

Selective release of autopsy findings continues whitewash of Sandra Bland killing

24 July 2015

On Thursday, Waller County Prosecutor Warren Diepraam declared that an official autopsy found that the July 13 prison death of 28-year-old Sandra Bland death was a suicide.

Following a week in which Bland’s unexplained death has been leading the daily news cycle in the US, Diepraam’s claim that Bland committed suicide has been repeated uncritically by almost every mainstream news outlet in America. The selective release of the autopsy findings is part of a deliberate move to sweep the entire case under the rug and shift the focus away from the fact that the string of events that led to Bland’s death were initiated by her unlawful arrest.

Bland was found hanged in her jail cell a mere three days after being beaten and wrongfully arrested during a routine traffic stop. Her friends and family have continually questioned the official account of her death, and assert that Bland would not have committed suicide, particularly as she had just accepted a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M. They have also called for an independent autopsy.

Theresa Dear, a longtime friend of Bland’s, criticized officials for selectively releasing “crumbs and morsels,” without revealing the full story. She told a local news station KTLA, “We, as a family and a community who love Sandra Bland, do not accept…this narrative that the Texas authorities are putting in the media that she had suicidal tendencies.”

Diepraam made clear that the release of details from the autopsy report was aimed at quelling any suspicion of the possibility that police murdered Bland. “We feel compelled to release [this information] because of specific allegations from some individuals about the circumstances that occurred in the Waller County jail and/or on the streets of Prairie View, Texas,” he declared.

Diepraam said that because the mark around Bland’s neck was uniform and consistent, and there was no observable damage to her trachea and esophagus, that she did not experience a violent struggle at the time of her death.

He further asserted that there were “no defensive injuries” on Bland’s hands, and that lacerations found on her wrists were incurred while being handcuffed by officers.

The most significant finding of the autopsy as reported, however, was that Bland was found to have scabs on her back and on the right side of her shoulder blade, consistent with being forced down on the ground during her arrest. Bland’s sister, Sharon Cooper, said that there was “Deep tissue bruising to her back which is consistent with the officer having his knee in her back.”

At the very least, the autopsy report confirms Bland’s audible statements during her arrest that officer Brian Encinia severely brutalized her and slammed her into the ground.

Despite the attempts to bury the story and exonerate the police, her death remains unexplained, and the official story is full of holes and contradictions.

Emerging from a dubious, closed door meeting on Wednesday between dozens of leading figures in the Texas political establishment and the Texas Rangers/FBI team investigating Bland’s death, authorities released two suicide-risk assessment forms allegedly completed during Bland’s processing into prison. The forms contradict each other in critical ways.

The first form, reportedly completed at 5:32 p.m., claims that Bland stated that she tried to commit suicide in 2014 by taking pills, due to a “lost baby.” On this form, she also allegedly checked a box indicating that she had felt “very depressed” at some point in her life, and another asking if she had felt like committing suicide in the past year.

On a second form, completed a mere three hours later, Bland reportedly answered “no” to the same questions regarding depression and thoughts of suicide. The lawyer for Bland’s family, Cannon Lambert, declared, “We take issue with the notion that she was suffering from depression. She was not clinically diagnosed that this family understands.”

Two crucial pieces of the investigation, the video footage showing Bland’s arrest and the prison surveillance footage, are shrouded in mystery and strongly suggest a police cover-up. The former contains numerous gaps and glitches, including cars vanishing and looping sequences, while the latter includes a lengthy gap spanning the hour leading up to Bland’s death, which police attribute to the motion sensors shutting down the camera in the absence of foot traffic.

No credence can be given to the official narrative put forth by the local authorities regarding Bland’s death.

Bland was an outspoken political activist, in particular concerning police violence. Over the past year, she became involved with the protests against police killings that took place across the US, and posted about them frequently on her Facebook page.

At a prayer vigil held in Texas Tuesday night, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, recalled a recent conversation with her daughter: “She said ‘Mom, now I know what my purpose is. My purpose is to go back to Texas, my purpose is to stop all social injustice.’”

Sandra Bland, murdered for her #BlackLivesMatter views?


Sandra Bland

By Andre Damon in the USA:

The police murder of Sandra Bland

23 July 2015

The July 13 death of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old African-American woman, in an East Texas jail cell has once again brought the issues of police violence and attacks on democratic rights to the forefront of political life in the United States.

At this point, it is unknown precisely how Bland, a vocal opponent of police violence, met her death. But one thing is clear: no credence can be given to anything coming from official channels about the circumstances of her death.

According to the official narrative, the newly employed young woman used a trash bag to hang herself “in a semi-standing position” from a wall partition post not much taller than her own height. Only an hour before she supposedly took this drastic action, she spoke to jail staff about making a phone call. There was, conveniently, no video of the hall leading to her jail cell in the hours before she died—according to police because the cameras are set off by motion detectors.

A comment in the New York Times by columnist Charles Blow points to a number of additional discrepancies in the official account, including the fact that video of Bland’s cell after her death shows a trash can with the garbage bag still in it. Moreover, a bible in the cell appears to have been opened to a page referencing suicide sometime after Bland was killed.

Bland’s family immediately rejected any possibility that Bland had committed suicide, noting that she was excited about her new job. Adding to the uncertainty surrounding the case was the revelation yesterday of glitches in the official dashboard camera video depicting Bland’s arrest, which Texas officials attributed to technical errors.

Whatever the physical cause of her death, criminal responsibility lies with the police. On July 10, Bland was driving in her car to begin a new job when she was stopped by a cop who threatened and brutalized her, and then arrested her without cause. The actions of this officer set into motion a series of events that ended in her death three days later.

The video footage that does exist of Bland’s arrest provides a picture of the daily outrages perpetrated by police in the United States. The young woman was stopped for a minor traffic infraction—supposedly failing to use her turn signal. When she questioned demands from police officer Brian Encinia to put out her cigarette (an unlawful demand), she was ordered out of the car. When she protested this outrageous treatment, she was threatened with a Taser by Encinia, who yelled, “I will light you up!”

After being forced out of the car, Bland was told by Encinia that she was under arrest. When she sought to use her phone to record the incident and asked what she was being arrested for, Encinia brutally attacked her. In a cell phone video, Bland is heard complaining loudly that her face had been slammed into the ground.

Given the vast amount of information available to police on the political views and activities of the American population, it is likely that Encinia had at his disposal records indicating Bland’s vocal opposition on social media to police violence and her likely participation in protests against police killings. The video shows the officer taking a more provocative tone after checking her license and looking up her records in his squad car. The episode leaves the distinct impression that Bland was deliberately targeted for her political views.

In line with the standard modus operandi of US police departments, Encinia has not been charged with any crime. He has merely been consigned to desk duty.

Sandra Bland’s death is impossible to understand apart from its context: three decades of social counterrevolution in America, accompanied by the militarization of the police and the integration of police departments into what has come to be called the “total army.”

The evolution of the police into heavily-armed occupation forces in working-class communities is a central feature of the domination of political reaction over all aspects of US society. Over this period, the methods employed by the US military in its wars abroad have been used ever more directly to deal with explosive social tensions within the United States.

Thuggish actions such as those carried out by Encinia are deliberately encouraged in America’s police forces, which attract the most backward and violent social elements. …

Police officers are trained to respond with extreme aggressiveness to any questioning of their authority. When an officer commits an act of violence or even murder, the entire political apparatus springs to his defense. He or she is given the most favorable possible coverage on the news, while prosecutors maneuver to avoid bringing charges.

The White House has not brought federal civil rights charges against officers in any of the high-profile police murders in recent months, including the killing of Freddie Grey in Baltimore last April, the murder of Eric Garner in New York City in July of 2014, the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August of last year, and the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland last November. The administration has taken the side of the police every time a police violence case has come before the Supreme Court.

Police in the US have killed 647 people so far this year—an average of more than three per day. This follows the 1,100 deaths in 2014, according to one database.

While thousands of people have been killed at the hands of police over the past decade, only 54 officers have been charged for killing people in the line of duty, of whom only 11 were convicted, receiving mostly wrist-slap sentences, according to a recent analysis by the Washington Post.

The death of Sandra Bland has once again produced popular shock and anger that such things should happen in America. Not only do they happen, they occur with nauseating regularity. Every new killing produces nothing but empty expressions of concern and self-serving rationalizations by the political establishment. No one is held to account. Nothing is done to prevent such outrages from happening again.

The daily horror of police violence in the US is one of the most visible symptoms of a deeply diseased society.

LIVE: Officials give update on Sandra Bland autopsy results: here.

Sandra Bland’s death in Texas, update


This video from Texas in the USA says about itself:

Sandra Bland Protest

18 July 2015

Dallas activist Olinka Green speaks about the case surrounding the death of Sandra Bland.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

US: Custody death cop breached rules

Thursday 23rd July 2015

State Trooper on administrative leave after arrest video emerges

A TEXAS state trooper has been placed on administrative leave for violating police procedures after a video showed him confronting a motorist, who was later found dead in a police cell.

The video shows Brian Encinia trying to pull Sandra Bland out of her car, before drawing his stun gun and threatening her for refusing to follow his orders during a traffic stop.

She was found dead in a cell days later, but police claims that she hanged herself with a plastic rubbish bag are disputed by her family and supporters.

The video, posted on Tuesday by the Texas Department of Public Safety, shows the trooper stopping Ms Bland for failure to signal a lane change.

After handing her a written warning, he remarks that she seems irritated, which she confirms, saying that she had changed lanes to make way for the trooper’s car.

The conversation turns hostile when the officer tells Ms Bland to put out her cigarette and she asks why she can’t smoke in her own car.

He then orders Ms Bland to get out of the car and, when she declines, tells her she is under arrest.

Her refusals bring a threat to drag her out by the trooper who takes out what appears to be a weapon, saying: “I will light you up.”

When she does get out of her car, the officer handcuffs her and Ms Bland screams that he’s about to break her wrists and complains that he has knocked her head into the ground.

Texas Department of Public Safety director Steven McCraw said that the officer had been suspended for violating police procedures and the department’s courtesy policy.

“Regardless of the situation, it doesn’t matter where it happens, a DPS state trooper has got an obligation to exhibit professionalism and be courteous … and that wasn’t the case in this situation,” he said.

Ms Bland’s family and local clergy have called for a Justice Department probe and an independent autopsy has been ordered.