Evangelical Lutheran solidarity with pro-Sandra Bland vigil in Texas, USA


This video from Texas, USA says about itself:

Pastor and activist Hannah Adair Bonner gives a tour of the Waller County Jail where questions still remain over the death of Sandra Bland.

From the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Louisiana, USA:

A Letter In Solidarity With the Sandra Bland Vigil Participants in Waller County

17 August 2015

Throughout history threats and acts of intimidation have been used to oppose those who call for justice in the lives of people who are marginalized, imprisoned, oppressed, or losing their lives. As people of faith, we gather at the foot of the cross of Jesus to resist this oppression. We join our voices to the voices of all who seek a fair and transparent investigation of the death of Sandra Bland. We say, with them, “Black Lives Matter.”

Recently, people of every faith, and those with no faith, have gathered in front of the Waller County Jail in Hempstead, Texas to proclaim that “Sandra Bland’s life mattered. It still matters. Sandy still speaks.” Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner, a United Methodist pastor, has been a faithful, prayerful, steady presence in front of the jail, along with the other conscientious participants.

On Sunday, August 9, the crowd was larger than the daily gathering. Rather than respond graciously to those exercising their constitutional rights to petition the government and gather for prayer, Waller County Sheriff Smith demeaned the protestors. He later said to Rev. Bonner, “Why don’t you go back to the church of Satan that you run?” Since then, we understand the sheriff’s office has taken other actions to intimidate the protestors standing in vigil for Sandra Bland.

Rev. Bonner and those with her are a living witness to what it means to be the church. They are working to tear down the walls of classism, sexism, and racism while building bridges of unconditional love. Their presence in these vigils embodies what it means to be Christ in the world.

We stand in solidarity with Rev. Bonner, and all who gather outside the Waller County Jail to protest and pray peacefully. They are bravely doing Christ’s work. Their peaceful actions demonstrate how Christians respond to injustice with love. We join with them in committing ourselves and our prayers to the important work of building bridges to those divided from us by reasons of hatred, fear, racism, injustice, and oppression.

Finally, and most importantly, we remember and proclaim that Sandra Bland was a beloved child of God. Her life mattered to her family. It mattered to her friends. It mattered to God, just as her life, and all black lives, matter to us. We, therefore, urge the Sheriff’s Department to act with restraint, compassion, and kindness toward all who are gathered outside the Waller County Jail to bear witness to Sandra Bland’s life.

Sincerely,

Bishop Michael Rinehart

Please email the synod office with the following information, if you’d like to be added to this letter of support: Name, City, State, Faith (if applicable)

Rev. Sandra Barnes, Slidell, LA, ELCA
Rev. Jennifer E. Boyd, Danbury, CT, ELCA
Rev. Margaret C. Casper, Galena, IL, ELCA
Rev. Andrew V. Chavanak, Falls City, NE, ELCA
Rev. Michael Coffey, Austin, TX, ELCA
Rev. Kathleen Davies, PCUSA
Fredericka DeBerry, Brenham, TX
Diana Edis, Columbia, SC, Lutheran
Paula Fox, Bryan, TX
Rev. Brad Fuerst, Houston, TX, ELCA
Rev. Kristin Galle, Spring, TX, UCC
Rev. Lura Groen, Houston, TX, ELCA
Amy Gulliksen, Carrollton, TX, ELCA
Megan Hansen, Conroe, TX, PC(USA) Ruling Elder
Rev. Barbara Harrison Condon, Idaho Falls, ID, ELCA
Beth Hartfiel, Houston, TX, ELCA
Rev. Peder Hinderlie, Milnor, ND, ELCA
Rev. Nancy Jaster, Woodhull, IL, ELCA
Rev. Sandra Jones, Aurora, IL
Rev. Ann Koopmann, TX, ELCA
Rev. Jennifer Shimota Krushas, High Point, NC, ELCA
Rev. Dr. Duane Larson, Princeton, IA, ELCA
Rev. Michael Lawrence-Weden, San Antonio, TX
Rev. Paul Lubold, Pittburgh, PA, ELCA
Rev. Blair Lundborg, Conroe, TX, ELCA
Andrea Martinez, Houston, TX
Rebecca McDonald, Cypress, TX, ELCA
Rev. Br. Chris Markert, Galveston, TX, ELCA
Rev. Cora Lee Meier, Mesa, AZ, ELCA
Rev. Kerry Nelson, Houston, TX, ELCA
Rev. Diane M. Olson, Milwaukee, WI, ELCA
Rev. Priscilla Paris-Austi, Seattle, WA, ELCA
Rev. Charles Parnell, Brenham, TX, ELCA
Br. Michael Patterson, OLF, Cypress, TX, ELCA
Rev. Mindy Roll, College Station, TX, ELCA
Susan Ruch, The Woodlands, TX
Rev. Karl Runser, Lock Haven, PA, ELCA
Rebecca Shields, Houston, TX
Laura Sims, Arlington, TX, ELCA
Joanna Thornton, Houston, TX, ELCA
Rev. Kim Truebenbach, Giltersville, PA, ELCA
Donna Vass, Houston, TX, ELCA
Joe Watt, Beaumont, TX
Rev. Donna M. Wright, Cheltenham, PA, ELCA
Rev. Edward Wunderlich, Waller, TX, ELCA

Sandra Bland’s Family Says They Are “Infuriated” By Arrest Video: here.

USA: Black August, a month of political prisoner activism and commemoration, can help remind us of the nation’s exponentially expanding racist prison system: here.

Black Lives Matter, news update


A memorial sits outside the Waller County Jail last month in Hempstead, Texas. Activists have taken to demonstrating outside the jail, where Sandra Bland died in her cell. Photo: Pat Sullivan/AP

From NPR in the USA, 15 August 2015:

It has been another 100-degree day in Hempstead, Texas. But no matter: dozens of activists have still come to demonstrate outside the Waller County Jail, setting up improvised camps and playing songs, as they’ve been doing for the past month. …

Bland’s death also sparked a heated conversation on social media — and inspired activists like the Rev. Hannah Bonner to brave the summer heat demanding answers.

“I’m a millennial, and so I do live in this social media generation,” Bonner says. “But I also understand the weaknesses of that, and one of those is an addiction to technology and also using technology as a placebo for actual action.”

So Bonner drives an hour each way between Houston and Hempstead every day to protest in person. Demonstrators hope to keep attention on the issue by camping out at the jail.

Some days, there are dozens of people gathered here. On this day, there were six, including graduate student Carie Cauley. She’s been taking part in the vigil for three weeks and feels a personal connection to the cause.

“Sandra Bland was black, which I happen to be. She was a woman, which I happen to be. She was educated, which I happen to be. She had a bachelor’s degree, which I happen to have,” Cauley says. …

As Bonner stands strumming her guitar in front of the jail, Waller County resident Mary Dolen approaches her and bursts into tears, sharing her own concerns about local law enforcement.

“I wanted to get the courage to come in here and say something and let you know it’s not just you, it’s not y’all,” Dolen says. “It’s people like me, too.”

By “people like me,” Dolen means white residents. Bonner says she’s had lots of encounters like this over the past month.

“It’s taken people some time of us sitting out here, and now that we’ve been out here long enough, it seems like our courage is giving other people courage to speak up.”

Bonner says connections like these can only be made in person, and that’s what keeps her coming back to Hempstead every day in the 100-degree heat.

Sandra Bland was pulled over for dubious reasons, treated rudely by a Texas state trooper, tackled to the ground, and arrested for “assault.” She died 3 days later in jail custody. Her family has filed a federal lawsuit against Texas authorities for her arrest and subsequent death in jail custody. Details and commentary on what exactly the lawsuit alleges are below: here.

From the CodePink women’s movement in the USA, 14 August 2015:

Dear Activist,

It is time for CODEPINK to join the vigil at the Waller County Sheriff’s Office, calling for an investigation into the death of Sandra Bland. The vigil has already exposed the hate in the sheriff’s office. Bring the Pink to support Hannah Bonner in her vigil for Sandra Bland.

From the Tampa Bay Times in Florida, USA:

Saturday, August 15, 2015 8:31pm …

Nearly 80 people assembled Saturday afternoon at Curtis Hixon Park before marching through downtown for Blackout Tampa, a national event that highlighted police treatment of black Americans and other civil rights issues.

“I’m here because we’re demanding our freedom,” said Jayson James, 31. “I am tired of every day seeing another black person who is murdered, unarmed, by the police.”

The protesters, mainly black but including some whites, wielded signs that read, “Straight outta patience,” “They choose if we live or die,” and “Don’t apologize for your blackness, or your fear.”

As they marched single-file toward the police station, the occasional car sounded its horn, eliciting waves of cheer that rose above the city din. “I believe that we will win, I believe that we will win,” chanted Crystal Wilson, an activist and University of South Florida student.

She weaved through the crowds with fellow activist Ashley Green, a 25-year-old St. Petersburg resident, sparking small bursts of protest songs.

The overwhelming message? Change comes from the bottom, not the top.

Nia Knighton, 19, the event’s main organizer, said it’s essential to discuss institutional racism. “But a lot of the time, we forget to talk about the changes we can make after the protests,” she said, which include equipping children with black history books and providing after-school programs.

Many of the black protesters said they had not been victims of police brutality. “But I know several friends who have been,” said James, of St. Petersburg. He recalled how one of his three brothers was stopped because his windows were “too dark.”

Nothing happened, James said, but these minor events continue to inspire a deep fear in the wake of Sandra Bland, a black Texas woman who died in jail shortly after a routine traffic stop.

Outside the police station, the chanting reached a fever pitch, with protesters denouncing the entire American justice system as “guilty as hell.”

No one came outside.

After a few minutes of demonstration, they crossed through the green light at Kennedy Boulevard and Franklin Street, disrupting a small line of traffic. The cars idled while throngs of black-clothed protesters crowded the intersection, waving flags and jumping up and down.

“Whose streets?” one protester screamed. “Our streets!” came the hearty reply.

Demonstrators, marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown, protest along West Florrisant Street on Aug. 10, 2015 in Ferguson, Missouri. Getty Images/Scott Olson

From the International Business Times:

Christian Taylor Death: Friends And Family To Gather For Funeral Of Unarmed Football Player Shot By Police

By Luke Villapaz

August 15 2015 11:37 AM EDT

UPDATE 5:28 p.m. EDT: More than 1,000 people gathered Saturday for the funeral of Christian Taylor, the 19-year-old football player shot to death by a rookie police officer in Arlington, Texas. The Dallas Morning News reported among those attending were teammates and coaches from Angelo State University, some five hours away. Also in attendance were Mayor Jeff Williams and Police Chief William Johnson.

The officer involved, Brad Miller, was fired earlier this week.

Journalists Arrested in Ferguson for Doing Their Job: here.

‘A thug’s life don’t matter’: Texas racist threatens mob violence against Black Lives Matter to avenge deputy’s death: here.

Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, USA after their deaths


This video from Texas in the USA says about itself:

Preacher: Sandra Bland Did Not Attack Trooper

20 July 2015

One week following the death of Sandra Bland, who died while in the custody of the Waller County Sheriff’s Office, members of local and national churches held a news conference to discuss the case.

USA: The St. Louis County police are investigating one of its officers after he bragged about spending the “bonus” he received for working during the recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the Guardian reported Friday. The officer, Todd J. Bakula, reportedly made the comments on his Facebook page. Bakula apparently received extra money for policing protests — marking the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death — that began in the St. Louis suburb Aug. 9: here.

A year after Michael Brown’s death brought attention to the dangers faced by African-Americans, including the perils of “driving while black,” in Ferguson, Missouri, and other St. Louis County cities, a new report claims that racially motivated traffic enforcement is endemic to many of the area’s small municipalities: here.

Black Persecution: Should African-Americans Qualify For Refugee Status In Other Countries? An Immigration Lawyer Says They Do By US Law: here.

Jacksonville, Florida – On August 8, activists in Jacksonville staged two demonstrations tied to the Black Lives Matter movement. In the morning, community organizers rallied for a press conference outside of the Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center against the mass incarceration of Black youth. Later that day, young activists led a Black Lives Matter march through downtown Jacksonville against racist police crimes: here.

An Argument For A Sandra Bland Wrongful Death Case: here.

Lena Dunham: Sandra Bland had big plans to help women before she died: here.

White police officer caught on camera telling black men unarmed teen Mike Brown ‘deserved it’: here.

Sandra Bland, African American women update


This video says about itself:

Candlelight Vigil For Sandra Bland in Austin Texas

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 capital. 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 Amsterdam News, in New York City in the USA:

Dear Attorney General Loretta Lynch,

8/13/2015, 10:24 a.m

For centuries, Black women in America have been raped, beaten, jailed and killed, with minimal or no federal response. The very recent escalation of the murderous history has caused Black women nationwide to demand a response from you.

I need not recount the past number or the horrific experiences, the degradation of “domestic workers,” used by white men in any way they saw fit, or the “angry Black Sapphire,” who would be put in her place, including those Black women whose station in American had risen above the masses of Black women subjected to the vicious brutality of the systemic racism of America.

Surely your office, nay your leadership, must first acknowledge, investigate and immediately bring to bear the weight of the U.S. attorney general’s office to put a stop to these outrages.

Bring justice for the July 2015 deaths in police custody of Sandra Bland, 28, in Waller, Texas, found hanging in a jail cell after a minor traffic violation; Kindra Chapman, 18, found hanging in a cell in Homewood, Ala., after allegedly stealing someone’s cell phone; Raynetta Turner, 44, arrested for theft in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., found dead in her cell after being returned to police custody from a hospital medical examination; Joyce Curnell, 50, found dead in her cell in Charleston, S.C., after an arrest for shoplifting; Ralkina Jones, 37, found dead in her cell of “unknown” medical issues in Cleveland after an arrest for domestic violence, and for the public police strip-search rape of Charnesia Corley, 21, in Harris County, Texas.

Police terrorism against Black women is escalating nationwide. We regard you, because of your position as attorney general but indeed because you are a Black woman, as someone who can attest to these realities.

Sincerely,

Viola Plummer, chair, December 12th Movement

The 5 Black Women Found Dead In Police Custody In 2 Weeks Highlight An Often Silenced Narrative: here.

Can You See Me Now: Raynette Turner, Sandra Bland and the Invisibility of Black Women: here.

Who Is Charnesia Corley? Texas Woman To Sue Police Over Vagina Search In Public After Traffic Stop: here.

As protests continue highlighting the widespread scourge of police brutality and anti-black racism in the U.S., the Department of Justice quietly released a survey on national use-of-force statistics that reveal a twofold dilemma: law enforcement agencies are ineffective at collecting such data—and the lack of such information, in turn, may hamper federal efforts at reforming the police: here.

Can armadillos swim?


This video from the USA says about itself:

10 June 2012

Four Southern Nine Banded Armadillos in Texas who were born as quadruplets (like all armadillos are) and lived under my house. (They have since moved back into the woods behind my house in search of greener pasture, and more grub worms.)

From eNatureBlog in the USA:

Can Armadillos Swim—Or Does All That Armor Keep Them From Floating?

Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2015 by eNature

Armadillos have been in the news recently.

Unfortunately the coverage has focused on the very small number of these remarkable creatures the may be disease vectors. It’s a real story, but risks painting the armadillo in negative way when in fact they are an appealing and harmless part of the landscape in many parts of the country.

Common across much of the Southeastern United States, armadillos attract a bit of a cult following of their oddly appealing appearance and lifestyle.

From an engineering standpoint, the armadillo is an exceptional creature.

The heavy plates that cover its head, torso, and tail are unique among North American mammals and present foes with a formidable barrier. And since the plates are jointed across the animal’s midsection, the armadillo can curl itself into a ball for added protection.

But what happens to the armadillo when it hits the water? Do those same heavy plates become a burden? Does this unusual mammal sink or swim?

The correct answer is both, sometimes. Just as it’s evolved armor for protection, the armadillo has come up with a unique way to carry that weight while in the water.

When small streams and ponds must be crossed, the armadillo compensates for the excess weight of its plates by taking deep gulps of air to inflate its intestines. Thus inflated, the intestines make the armadillo buoyant enough to swim short distances.

And if gulping additional air is just too much work, the armadillo can simply walk across the bottom of the stream or pond like a deep-sea diver wearing lead weights.

So next time you see an armadillo around water, keep an eye out and see which option is uses.

P.S. Here’s a bonus fact— the name “armadillo” originated with the Spanish conquistadores who named it “the little man in armor”.

Ever seen an armadillo in the wild? Please share your stories with us below.

Pro-Sandra Bland clergywoman called ‘Satanic’ by Texas sheriff


Waller County Sheriff R. Glenn Smith (screen grab)

By David Edwards in the USA:

Sheriff taunts clergy keeping vigil at jail where Sandra Bland died: ‘Go back to the church of Satan

10 Aug 2015 at 16:12 ET

A United Methodist Church pastor in Texas said on Monday that the Waller County sheriff told her to “go back to the church of Satan” while she was keeping vigil outside the jail where Sandra Bland died.

Hannah Adair Bonner explained on her Twitter feed that she went to the Waller County Jail on Monday just like she had for 27 days since Bland’s death. While she was sitting outside the jail, Sheriff R. Glenn Smith decided to confront her.

Cell phone video uploaded by Bonner shows Smith walking by and asking if she needs his business card, presumably so he can be correctly identified.

“Why don’t you go back to the church of Satan that you run?” Smith asks as he walks into the jail.

Bonner later called on activists to contact Smith’s office for an apology.

“Sheriff then went to my car, took pics of license plate and my face and threatened he is going to do something with them,” she noted.

See also here. And here.

Smith’s behaviour, associating a Christian pastor with Satanism, reminds me of how southern racists in the USA used to call, and still call, another Christian minister: Dr Martin Luther King Junior they call ‘Marxist Lucifer Coon Jewnior’, mixing religious fear mongering about Satan with red-baiting, racist stereotypes and anti-Semitism.

From The Atlantic in the USA about Texas:

In 2007, the chief of police in Hempstead, Glenn Smith, was accused of racism and police brutality during an arrest. Council members opted to suspend Smith for two weeks, a sanction that disappointed civil-rights leaders in town. The following year, amid more allegations of police misconduct, Smith was fired. He promptly ran for county sheriff and won, and is now charged with investigating Bland’s death in the jail he oversees.

Monarch butterflies in Austin, USA


This video says about itself:

1 August 2014

Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterfly. Late instar caterpillar feeding to pupation to eclosing from a chrysalis as a Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Time-lapse video. FYV FrontYardVideo 1080 HD. Music “Smile Quiet Looking Up” by Puddle of Infinity.

From the Wildlife Promise blog in the USA:

Austin, Texas Creates Habitat for the Declining Monarch Butterfly

8/3/2015 // By Patrick Fitzgerald

The City of Austin, Texas sits at a critical migration point for the monarch butterfly. In the spring, Austin is one of the first places in the U.S. that the monarch stops to lay its eggs on milkweed, so the next generation can continue the journey north. During the fall migration, monarchs stop to feed on nectar plants because they need to fatten up on their way to Mexico where they will overwinter.

Fortunately the City of Austin is already a haven for wildlife – NWF named Austin the most wildlife-friendly city in America earlier this year. So it’s no surprise that Austin is among the first cities taking significant action to help the declining monarch butterfly.

In May of 2015, the City of Austin passed a city council resolution designed to incorporate more native milkweed into the city’s landscape:

“The City Manager is directed to collaborate with the local offices of the National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and initiate a process for incorporating the cultivation of native milkweed where feasible into the city’s landscape portfolio at Austin City Hall, city-owned buildings and properties, as well as the city’s vast preserve lands, parks, and open spaces.” – The City of Austin

This is a big win for the monarch butterfly and all the citizens of Austin who love this iconic and declining species. Austin manages nearly 20,000 acres of land through the Austin Parks and Recreation Department and another 7,000 through the Austin Water Utility Wildlife Conservation Division. While no one would imagine that all of these lands will be managed with the monarch as its primary or only constituent, this resolution represents a significant step to plant more milkweed on city land.