Sandra Bland’s death a result of a convergence of race, gender and power.
By: Gulamhusein A. Abba.
Suicide or not, the police are clearly responsible for her death. And we cannot, must not rest till they are made to pay for it, especially the arresting officer.
It is time for the police to understand that they literally are the servants of the people and their job is to keep law and order, protect the citizens, and help them. And do all this “politely and nicely’. They have no right to oppress the citizens, trample on their rights and lord it over them. If they cannot understand all this by themselves, they must be made to understand.
The spreading culture among police of Entitlement and Power and Immunity needs not just to be curbed but eliminated.s time for the police to understand that they literally are the servants of the people and their job is to keep law and order, protect the citizens, and help them. And do all
A memorial for Sandra Bland at the spot where she was arrested in Hempstead, Tex., this month. Credit Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times (Photo: courtesy of New York Times)
What is maddening, really, really maddening about this case is people continuing to say, “If she had only been polite she would have been alive today”.
This has been said again and again in recent cases of suspects being killed by police. It is nothing short of blaming the victim and trying to absolve the police of any blame.
This claim is particularly inappropriate in the Sandra Bland case. For Heaven’s sake, she WAS civil and polite. Here is how it unfolded.
She is written up for changing lanes without using a signal – an infraction motorists travelling on highways commit routinely. She accepts it without any protest of any kind. About two minutes later, seeing that she is being tailed by a police car, she pulls up on the side, as law abiding citizens are required to do.
The police officer tailing her walks up to her car and asks her a couple of questions and she replies. He then asks her for her driver’s license and registration etc. and she hands these over, again without any question or protest. He returns about 5 minutes later and hands back the papers. Everything quite normal until now. Then he asks her if she is OK. Having been asked, Sandra replies: “You. You. That is your job.” Still nothing offensive from her.
He goads her on. He comments, “You seem to be very irritated.” Of course she is. Even now Sandra maintains her calm and tells him truthfully and calmly that she indeed is irritated and tells him why.
He then provocatively asks, “Are you done?”. Sandra continues being “nice and polite” and answers civilly, “You asked me and I told you, So yes, I am done now”
The officer was apparently bent on provoking her into some action that would give him cause to escalate the situation. He now asks her to put out the cigarette. This is when Sandra stops being “polite and nice.” She tells him, still calmly and politely but firmly, that she is not required by law not to smoke in her own car and she is not required to put out the cigarette.
This is what the officer has been waiting for. He asks her to step out of the car. She answers, still within her rights, “I don’t have to get out of the car”.
The officer is obviously incensed that this chit of a girl, and black at that, instead of obeying him meekly, is asserting her rights.
He now ORDERS her to get out of the car. He opens the door of the car and once more orders her to step out of the car. Here is the conversation that follows: Sandra, “You don’t have the right…“. He, shouting “Step out of the car”. She “You don’t have the right to do that…”. He, “I DO have the right. Now step out or I will remove you”.
At this point Sandra starts reciting what activists are advised to do in such situations, She, “I refuse to talk to you other than identifying myself…..”. He cuts her short and orders, “Get out of the car now or I will remove you”.
Sandra tells him, “I am going to call…. “. He, “I am going to yank you out of here,” She, “OK So you are going to yank me out of my car? OK . Alright. Let’s do this”.
At this point, he reaches into the car, She, “Don’t touch me”. He, “get out of the car”. She, “Don’t touch me. I’m not under arrest …”. He, “You ARE under arrest”. This is the first time he has told her she is under arrest. She, “I’m under arrest for what? Why am I being apprehended? You said ….”. He, “get out of the car. Get out of the car NOW. Get out of the car’ At this point he seems to be pointing what appears to be a taser. at her face. He, “Get out of the car or I will light you up. Get out”.
Sandra gets out of the car and starts walking with him. This is where she loses her cool. She, “Wow, Wow. FOR FAILURE OF A SIGNAL. You are doing all this….”. He “Get over there”. She “Right. Yea. Yea. Let’s take this to court’. He, ”Go ahead.”, She, “For failure of a signal”, She repeats, louder “For failure of a signal…”
He handcuffs her roughly and Sandra is taken to the police station.
It will be noted that Sandra was “nice and polite” all the way till the officer starts implementing what he tells her is a “lawful order’ but which was not.
So, clearly, being “Nice and Polite” does not save a black, especially if she is young and a female, from having her rights trampled and being treated like a piece of shit.
The important point to remember here is that though one must be nice and polite at all times towards all people, including the police, it has its limits. If you continue in this mode even when a police officer becomes abusive and starts threatening you and abusing his authority and issuing unlawful orders and putting his/her hands on you, then you cease being a nice and polite person and become a spineless enabler.
It is this knowledge that the citizens will do whatever they are told to do that makes police officers believe that they can treat the citizens as they will and get away with it.
It is time for citizens to stand up for their rights. And it is time for the police to understand that they literally are the servants of the people and their job is to keep law and order, protect the citizens, and help them. And do all this “politely and nicely’. They have no right to oppress the citizens, trample on their rights and lord it over them. If they cannot understand all this by themselves, they must be made to understand.
The spreading culture among police of Entitlement and Power and Immunity needs not just to be curbed but eliminated.
Unless this is done, this cancer will spread and will lead to people becoming suspicious and hostile towards the police. And arming themselves to protect themselves from the lawlessness of the increasingly militarized, lawless and oppressive police.
Now to the question of whether Sandra committed suicide or was murdered by the police while in their custody.
Please remember that she is a well-educated young lady, had recently been offered two jobs and was an ardent activist for justice and the rights of blacks. This for her was a made to order case to take to the courts and expose the lawlessness of the police. Indeed, before being dragged to her cell, while she was being taken into custody she is heard to tell the arresting officer, “Let’s take this to court”. “Oh I can’t wait to go to court. Oh I can’t wait. I cannot wait till we go to court.” These are her actual words and can be heard on the video released by the police. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuPvDMN73hQ at 10.42 and 11.54)
There was no reason for her to commit suicide and every reason to live to take this matter to court. On the other hand, the police had every reason to want to silence her forever.
Besides, the police claim that Sandra had, in her pre-booking interrogation, told them that she had felt depressed in the past. With this flag raised, why was she not put on a suicide watch? Why was she not properly monitored while in the cell? Why was a plastic bag conveniently left in her cell?
What about the coroner’s finding that there was no indication of a struggle just prior to her death? That is not proof of her not being murdered.
Suicide or not, the police are clearly responsible for her death. And we cannot, must not rest till they are made to pay for it especially the arresting officer.