3:AM Magazine (London): racist terrorism: dead for driving whilst black

racist terrorism: dead for driving whilst black

By Alan Gilbert.
Sandra Bland was an activist in Black Lives Matter! from Chicago. She had just gotten a job at Prairie View A & M , her alma mater, and was driving to it. Sandra was also an artist who had a whole life to live… Geneva Reed-Veal, Sandra’s mother, recalled one of her last conversations with her daughter:
“She said, ‘Momma, now I know what my purpose is. My purpose is to go back to Texas. My purpose is to stop all social injustice in the South.’ ”
When Walter Johnson was murdered by a police officer in North Charleston, Sandra tweeted:
“I want the white folks to really understand out there, black people are truly—we’re doing as much as we can. Not all of us, but some of us are really doing as much as we can. And we can’t help but get [bleep] off when we see situations where it’s clear the black life didn’t matter. For those of you questioning why was he running away, well, [bleep], because in the news that we’ve seen as of late, you could stand there, surrender to the cops and still be killed.”
Brian Encinia, a police officer, swerved around (his camera recording) and began following Bland. What could be more suspicious than a woman driving while black? As a Black Lives activist, Bland had prophetically tweeted April 8:
Sandra Bland @a_sandybeach


8:43 AM – 8 Apr 2015 
The tweet links to her Instagram account, where she posted an illustration of a young black man wearing a noose fashioned from the American flag. And of course, she was found in her jail cell hung… I have known, in many movements, courageous people like Sandra Bland. Officer Encinia speeded up; the road changed to four lanes and she changed lanes to get out of his way, without signaling. For this “crime,” he pulled her over.
Since she was a woman, he approached her “politely.” He wouldn’t tell her whether he was giving a ticket or a warning. But he asked her why she was upset. And she told him – it was because he had speeded after her, forced her to change lanes. Encinia became angry. She committed the sin against police “authority” – the authority of an Occupying Army for black people and chicanos – of smoking a cigarette while driving while a black woman who, in response to questions, has words…
This “crime” is not barred in any statute in Texas or elsewhere. An activist in Black Lives Matter, she spoke of her right to be in the car smoking.Threatening her with a taser, Encinia said he would “LIGHT HER UP” if she did not get out of the car. For changing lanes
If a police car or ambulance, siren going, lights flashing, speeds behind you, the law everywhere requires that you move over to the right.Encinia took her behind her car (his camera “has no recording” or was edited by the “police” – there are gaps in the video) but she speaks out – a passerby recorded it – against his throwing her on the ground, banging her head. She says she couldn’t hear. She says she has epilepsy…
The officer in the civilian video is kneeing her in the back limp on the ground.She had deep bruises on her back. She said her arm was broken. Officer Encinia “LIT HER UP.” That is called racist terror. Encinia took her to jail, threw her in a cell, and two days later, she had supposedly committed suicide (according to District Attorneys Mathis and Diepraam, she had “marijuana in her system” to boot…; this “prosecutorial” tactic is otherwise known as: throw shit at the wall and see what sticks…) There is no evidence of any absence of levelheadedness and sanity in the conversation or in these videos on her part.
CNN, however, with due journalistic seriousness or perhaps naiveté reported:
“The investigation is being treated like a murder investigation, according to Mathis.

‘It is very much too early to make any kind of determination that this was a suicide or a murder because the investigations are not complete,” he said Monday. “This is being treated like a murder investigation.”
The case will go to a grand jury. [as with Michael Brown in Ferguson, that is not promising…]
‘There are too many questions that still need to be resolved,’ he said.

The Texas Rangers and the FBI are investigating Bland’s death.

“The death of Sandra Bland will not be swept under the rug,” Mathis said. “There will be no one who is protected. … The truth will come out.”
In response to Walter Pendleton, a black minister requesting records about unequal prosecution, however, District Attorney Mathis had behaved way out of line:
“In 2014, Elton Mathis, the DA, was accused of sending threatening text messages after an African-American clergyman asked Waller County to provide data on prosecution rates by ethnicity. Reverend Walter Pendleton says after he accused DA Mathis of selectively prosecuting minorities, Mathis texted him with threats. Mathis reportedly told him, quote, “You are too stupid to know what that word means.” The prosecutor cited examples of white public officials he had prosecuted, and then he texted, quote, “My hounds ain’t even started yet dumb ass…When I talk people [will] listen. Keep talking and I will sue your ass for slander.” Now, I am saying these words because they are the text, and this was reported in the Houston Chronicle, of the DA that we’re talking about today, in response to a prominent local reverend who was concerned about selective prosecution by ethnicity. – Democracy Now July 24, 2015

“Insanity by virtue of racism” – what ought to be a sentencing plea in a court of law in the United States – seems to be a widespread condition among the “authorities” in Waller, Texas. Perhaps Waller, Texas is the only location in the whole country and certainly in the “great state of Texas” in which minorities are not selectively prosecuted. Actually, about 30% of all the people in prisons are black, about 10% of the population…. 
In Baltimore, District Attorney Marilyn Mosby – the daughter of police officers – courageously indicted the 6 police officer who murdered Freddy Gray as soon as the coroner’s report was issued. His arrest and death sounds a lot like Sandra Bland’s. He, too, was accused by the police of “having committed suicide” (by “severing his spine” in the back of a locked police wagon).On the facts revealed on tape so far, Officer Encinia stopped Sandra Bland falsely, threatened to “Light Her Up” with a taser for smoking in her car, took her out back, and – her words on the tape are convincing evidence – beat her. The passerby’s tape has him kneeing her limp body on the ground.She was taken to jail, her medical condition ignored, and two days later she was dead. Her cell phone has disappeared; the tape of the pursuit was edited (the audio is complete, but the video has gaps). Even on what was shown and Encinia’s failure to report her condition to others (though they may have joined together in killing her), he is guilty of assault and battery and probably of manslaughter.
He is on departmental leave temporarily. He has not been arrested. What swift “legal” action…
Once again, Sandra Bland was in Black Lives Matter. Bland stood up for her rights as an American citizen with a police officer at a forced and never charged traffic stop. One of the most suspicious matters is that her cell phone has been destroyed or hidden. Perhaps she threatened legal proceedings against the Waller “police” department. Perhaps she took pictures. These facts are not emphasized in reporting in the corporate press (the column in the Times by Charles Blow is an exception).
Like Emmet Till, once upon a time, Sandra Bland from Chicago – what should be understandably given changes that have occurred – still had the illusion that the police in the South consider the law and are not the KKK in blue. She was enthusiastic about being hired at her alma mater Prairie View A&M. Even being demeaned and sometimes threatened in the United States of America, if you are black, she believed, you can act as a human being and a citizen… More investigation – Charles Blow in the Times asks many relevant questions – still needs to follow. Investigation is not having the authors of racist terror including the local “district attorney” sign a seal of approval on themselves. Firing every person who was responsible for what happened to Bland especially the sheriff and District Attorneys would be what a community would do which had some respect for the rule of law. That is a long way up from Waller and despite mass protest from below about this case, from the United States of America…

When 6 cops threw Freddy Gray into the back of a van with out a seat belt and drove around and broke his spine, he had, they said, committed a crime. Freddy Gray, Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland knew her rights. She committed the “crime” of knowing her rights.Sheriff Glenn Smith in Waller had been removed as chief of a police department in Hempstead, Texas for racism. It is interesting what serve as a credential for hiring a sheriff in Waller. What does it take to get fired as chief of a Texas police department for racism? As the words and actions of DA Mathis, Sheriff Smith and Officer Encinia all reveal, being a racist toward black people is an official norm in Waller, Texas.
A woman can be detained and assaulted and “found dead in a cell” in Waller, Texas for driving while black but Sheriff Smith goes about his work.
Alan Gilbert is John Evans professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and author of Marx’s Politics:Communists and Citizens(Rutgers, 1980), Democratic Individuality (Cambridge, 1990), Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy (1999) and Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence (Chicago March, 2012). His blog Democratic Individuality is a rich mine.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, July 28th, 2015.