Black Lives Matter activists have held demonstrations this week in Waller County, Texas, to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Sandra Bland on Wednesday. Their message: “Sandy still speaks.”
Bland was arrested on July 10, 2015, by Texas trooper Brian Encinia outside Prairie View A&M University, and three days later she was found dead in a Waller County jail cell.
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Mirissa Tucker, a senior at Prairie View A&M University, told Rewire that the vigil was to give voice to Bland and other victims of racism and police brutality. “Sandy still speaks,” Tucker said. “Sandy speaks through us at the Waller County jail.”
Activists played a recording of Bland speaking through a loudspeaker during the vigil. Bland had been outspoken about issues of racism and police brutality prior to her death.
“White people, if all lives mattered, would there need to be a hashtag for Black lives mattering?” Bland asks in a video she posted on Facebook, which was played at the vigil. “We can’t help but get pissed when we see situations where it’s clear the Black life didn’t matter .… Show me in American history where all lives have mattered. Show me where there has been liberty and justice for all.”
Tucker said that she came to the vigil to “push through the fear” she has about racism and police brutality, because the issues are too important and require immediate action.
“Fear is not going to stop what is going on, fear is not going to overshadow the fact that people are dying, fear is not going to overshadow what we need to do in order to stop people from dying,” Tucker said to Rewire.
Bland supporters have spent three nights holding vigil outside the Waller County jail, until the exact time Bland’s body was reportedly discovered in a jail cell. Activists also gathered for a protest on the sidewalk along the street where Bland was arrested.
The street was renamed by the Prairie View City Council in April, and is now Sandra Bland Parkway.
Houston-based activist Cayenne Nebula spoke to those gathered on Sunday at 4:30 p.m., a year to the date that Bland was arrested. “She should still be here fighting with us. She should still be fighting this fight with us. She still has a voice in the community by us speaking for her,” said Nebula, reported KVUE.
The anniversary of Bland’s death comes in the wake of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Black men killed by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Falcon Heights, Minnesota, respectively.
Days later five police officers were shot and killed and nine others were injured, when a sniper opened fire during a Black Lives Matter demonstration.
“We get past a week like we just had and not only do we have to grieve those losses, but we still have to pay homage to Sandra Bland,” Tucker told Rewire. “There’s a lot on our plate when it comes to grieving, there’s a lot on our plate when it comes to remembering the lives that were lost.”
Tucker says that’s why it’s important to remember Bland and the other victims of police brutality and racism. “We still haven’t forgotten about Sandra Bland,” Tucker said. “We still remember the legacy that Sandra left.”
The vigil at the jail ended Wednesday morning at approximately 9 a.m., the time when Waller County jail officials are said to have discovered that Bland had died in her cell.