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Activists Demand DoJ Investigation into Sandra Bland's Death

This morning, a coalition of activists gathered in front of the Justice Department in Washington DC to deliver a petition containing 500,000 signatures demanding that Attorney General Loretta Lynch launch an investigation into Bland’s death

by VICE News
Jul 30 2015, 4:04pm

Photo via WALLER COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMET

Suspicion continues to loom heavily over Sandra Bland's death — and many are not satisfied by the video footage that Waller County Jail officials released this week to mitigate conspiracy theories that she was dead before her mugshot was even taken.

This morning, a coalition of activists gathered in front of the Justice Department in Washington DC to deliver a petition containing 500,000 signatures demanding that Attorney General Loretta Lynch launch an investigation into Bland's death. Last week, Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) wrote to Lynch asking that she open an investigation; Bland was from Illinois.

Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation by state trooper Brian Encinia. Dashcam footage shows the interaction between Bland and Encinia quickly escalating. That was on July 10. Three days later, jail officials say they found Bland hanging in her cell. The medical examiner ruled Bland's death a suicide and released the autopsy report, which appeared to corroborate police officials' account of events — that Bland hanged herself using a plastic trash bag in her cell. Earlier this week, officials released several hours of footage purporting to show her intake and booking at Waller County Jail, and having her mugshot taken.

But inconsistencies between documents pertaining to Bland's arrest and detention, together with her family's insistence that she was not suicidal, means the public continues to be wary of evidence that jail officials are providing.

The suspicion isn't entirely unfounded. A long tradition of police department internal cover-ups — often described as "the blue wall of silence" — in addition to recent police incidents such as the fatal shooting of Walter Scott in April, in which video footage shows an officer tampering with evidence in the aftermath, have given rise to a widespread distrust of police's "official" accounts.

Bland's family have ordered an independent autopsy to determine the cause of her death. The FBI, the Texas Rangers, and state district attorneys are all conducting investigations into her death.

UltraViolet, a group advocating an expansion of women's rights, is among those gathering on the steps of the Justice Department today, and will bring a mobile billboard broadcasting their demands. "If we want to learn what actually happened to Sandra in her jail cell we need Attorney General Lynch and the Department of Justice to get involved," wrote Nita Chaudhary, the group's co-founder, in a press release today. "The deaths of black women at the hands of police, with no accountability, needs to stop. We can't leave the investigation of Sandra Bland's death in the hands of local officials."

Protests erupted around the country this week, from Illinois (Bland's home state) to Texas (where Bland died), to solidarity marches in New York, California, and Washington DC.  

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