By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent
A broad coalition of civil rights groups delivered more than 500,000 signed petitions to the Justice Department (DOJ), demanding that Attorney General Loretta Lynch launch a full investigation into the death of Sandra Bland and into the practices and policies of the Waller County, Texas police department and the prosecutor’s office immediately.
During the press conference about the petition last Thursday, Lois Wilkins, a Freeland, Mich. resident and mother of four who started the petition on MoveOn.org, recounted a conversation that she had with her daughter Ebony Joy, who felt a strong connection with Bland’s life and tragic death. Ebony also admired Bland’s work as an activist and her decision to return to her alma mater to mentor the next generation of Black leaders.
“She said, ‘Mom, I could have been Sandra Bland,’” Wilkins remembered, “’And if I die in police custody, I want you to know that I did not commit suicide.’”
Wilkins continued: “It was at that moment that I had no choice but to act.”
Bland attempted to record her interaction with Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia before he commanded her to put her cell phone down. However, another bystander managed to capture the encounter on video.
“If you look at the video of Sandra Bland closely, she was locked up, because she asserted her rights,” said Rev. Hagler. “The rights that anybody should have to ask the questions, ‘What are you doing? Why are you stopping me? Why are you arresting me?’”
Rashad Robinson, the executive director of ColorOfChange.org, an online civil rights organization focused on criminal justice and police reform, said that, from the beginning, Waller County officials have failed to expose the truth about what happened to Sandra Bland.
“From the police killings of Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd and the countless other Black victims of police violence, Waller County and Sandra Bland are no different,” said Robinson.
Elton Mathis, the district attorney for Waller County, said that the events surrounding Sandra Bland’s death will be investigated thoroughly.