Following the tragic deaths of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old woman who was found dead last week in her Houston jail cell, and Alabama resident Anthony Ware, who died after being chased into the woods and pepper sprayed by police, black Americans took to Twitter to spark yet another needed conversation on race and policing in the United States. The result was the powerful hashtag #IfIDieInPoliceCustody, which had gained quite a bit of online traction by Monday. Like previous hashtags #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and #SayHerName, this latest wave of online activism provided black Americans with a forum to share their experiences and release their frustration over yet another suspicious death of a young black American in police custody.
According to CNN, it was Ware's death that initially sparked the hashtag. Ware, a 35-year-old from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, died on July 11 shortly after police officers pepper sprayed him for allegedly fleeing into the woods and resisting arrest. On July 13, in Houston, Bland was found dead in her jail cell just three days after being arrested during a routine traffic stop. The 28-year-old, who was on her way to start a new life in Texas, was initially pulled over for failure to signal while changing lanes. According to The Houston Chronicle, the traffic stop allegedly escalated, and Bland was charged with assault on a public servant. A Houston coroner ruled her death as suicide by hanging, but Bland's family maintains she wouldn't kill herself, despite having a history of depression.
The hashtag raises a crucial point about the deaths of Bland, Ware, as well as so many other black lives that have been lost after encounters with police. Here are some of the most powerful responses from #IfIDieInPoliceCustody.