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Sandra Bland: Questions unanswered

[TRIGGER WARNING: Death, Racially Motivated Murder, Suicide, dirsturbing imagery]

How long will it be until the racialization of police brutality is taken seriously? We can’t wait much longer.

Sandra Bland died in police custody on July 13th 2015 after being detained for failure to signal. The 28-year-old Chicago native was in Texas exploring a professional opportunity when a routine traffic stop developed in to a forced arrest on July 10th.

The circumstances and information surrounding the events continue to develop and overlap. Earlier this week, a dashcam video of the arrest was released by the county police. In it, officer Encinia gets increasingly abrasive after Bland refuses to put out her cigarette.  As the exchange progresses, the officer orders Bland to get out of her car and threatens to use his taser to “light her up” for not co-operating. Bland repeatedly demands to know what she is being arrested for, but is met with force and threats in return.

Later in the video, Encinia makes a phone call with his version of the events. He claims Bland was initially physical, that he tried to explain the process to her and that she kicked his shins and received cuts to his hands in the process.

When Bland was transferred to the jail, her paperwork stated she had been suicidal in the last year but was not currently in such a state. This assertion is backed-up by family members, who state she was excited about her new job opportunity in Texas, and in a generally positive mental health-frame. However, according to the county, Bland was found on July 13th to have committed suicide in her cell through asphyxiation with a plastic bag. Medical officials were alerted and responded by attempting resuscitation.

Bland’s cell, the alleged site of her suicide.

Bland’s family are calling-out the story of suicide, however. They firmly believe this was not an option for Sandra and are asking for a third-party autopsy. Further, how is it that there were objects for self-harm in a prison cell? Typically, anything that could induce bodily harm is not/should not be permitted. And, if the garbage bag was the method of suicide, in photos taken of the cell, why is there a bag in the can? There should be no reason for it to be replaced, or for there to have been more than one bag in the can.

There also continues to be a lot of questions about the mugshot that has been released. Tumblr user CISHit points out (WARNING: possible photo of corpse within link) really concisely a number of important notes that need to be explained. Firstly, why is Bland already in an orange jumpsuit? Mug shots are meant to be captured at in-take, before further processing. Also, from body language, it looks like she is actually lying down. Compared to previous photos and videos of Sandra, it also seems like her cheeks have begun to recess and patches of her face are beginning to pale. A lot of these inquiries continue to be echoed by mainstream media and public outcries.

As the story develops, there seems to be more questions instead of answers cropping up. Why was Sandra forcibly removed from her car? Why was her physical well-being threatened? Where were the routine check-ins at the jail? What is really happening in the mug shot?

When will we see justice against the flawed authority system America continues to be subjected to?

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Written by Sarah Foot

Sarah Foot is a native Vancouverite who, conveniently, loves the smell of rain. A recent graduate from Simon Fraser University, she is passionate about the topics of feminism, agency and sexuality. When she isn’t writing up a sweet-smelling storm, you can catch Sarah dancing, petting dogs or on her blog Ink and Jam. You can also follow her day-to-day ponderings on twitter @sarahfoot.

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