Last week, 28-year-old Sandra Bland was found dead in her Texas jail cell, three days after she was arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer while pulled over for not using a turn signal. A video of the traffic stop and arrest has sparked even more questions about what took place, as it appears to be edited, though the Texas Department of Public Safety said the original video wasn't changed at all. Bland's death was ruled a suicide by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston, but it's being investigated as a murder, and her family demanded an independent autopsy and is still awaiting the results. Many people are now wondering: How can I help Sandra Bland's family?
The video shows that, after Bland initially refused to get out of her car, the police officer puts handcuffs on her and forces her to the ground as she complains about the way he's treating her. Bland was booked for assaulting a public servant (a third-degree felony) and was put in a cell by herself. For the next few days, Bland was in contact with her family, trying to get enough money together for her bail and she reportedly told relatives that she thought her arm or shoulder was broken, according to NBC. On July 13, Bland was found dead in her cell from apparent asphyxiation, an hour after asking to use the phone. CPR was performed, but she was pronounced dead soon after.
On Friday, more than 100 protesters held a rally outside the jail where Bland died, demanding to know the truth. There aren't currently any crowdfunding projects to help Bland's family, but if you want to help them seek answers as to what happened, use the hashtags #JusticeForSandy, #JusticeForSandraBland, #WhatHappenedToSandraBland, and #SayHerName to keep attention on the case and to voice your frustration with the police and jail involved. Keeping a case in the spotlight and continuing to ask questions makes it much more difficult for authorities to ignore it or shrug it off. Bland's death is also part of the larger Black Lives Matter movement, which seeks justice for unarmed black people killed by the police and an end to racial discrimination in criminal justice.
Bland's sister Sharon Cooper spoke on MSNBC, asking that the public use social media for good by continuing to use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to post about "Sandy" using the hashtags. "The minute that you forget her name, you forget her character and that she was a person," she said.
So if you really want to help the Bland family, using social media is exactly what they're asking you do.
The Texas Rangers are still investigating Bland's death, and the FBI is looking into whether or not the police video was doctored. The state trooper who arrested Bland, Brian Encinia, was placed on administrative duties because the state Department of Public Safety said it found "violations of procedures regarding traffic stops and the department's courtesy policy." However, the department did not specify which procedures he allegedly violated.
Images: Texas Department of Public Safety/YouTube (1)