People who knew Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old Chicago-area woman found dead in her jail cell July 13 after an arrest in Texas, said they can't accept officials’ explanation that she took her own life. The hacker activists’ group Anonymous this week added fuel to conspiracy theories that Texas State Troopers and the Waller County Sheriff’s Department have lied about Bland’s death and might even have been responsible for staging it as a suicide.
The group said Texas authorities had failed in their attempt to cover up “a blatant act of crime against an innocent woman,” in a video that surfaced Tuesday on a website that claims affiliation with Anonymous. As officials continued to investigate Bland’s death, which medical examiners have twice ruled a suicide, Anonymous threatened to expose what it described as officials' "lies," and called for a day of "Rage for Sandra" on Aug. 8 to demand action against the involved Texas authorities.
Bland’s case has sparked a nationwide debate over the circumstances leading to her being jailed for allegedly assaulting Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia, 30. Three days before jail guards in Hempstead, Texas, discovered her body, Bland arrived in the area because she had just accepted a job offer at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. Encinia pulled over her vehicle for failing to signal before changing lanes, police said.
A widely seen dashboard-camera video shows Encinia and Bland arguing about the traffic stop, before their exchange escalates to Encinia threatening Bland with a stun gun. The trooper then arrests Bland, out of view of the dashcam. Bland remained in jail for two days, while waiting for family members to raise money for a $5,000 bond. She was found dead July 13 of an apparent suicide by hanging.
"We will not stand as Sandra’s death becomes another hashtag and then a statistic,” read a statement on the Anonymous website. “We, not as Anonymous but as citizens of the United States, are tired of the cycle of murders and cover-ups made by police departments across the nation.”
The group also called on police chiefs to join demonstrations in each city where they are staged and “renew their pledge to protect the people they serve.” Over the last year, Anonymous members have protested a handful of police violence cases that drew international headlines, including the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, where local activists plan to mark the one-year anniversary Aug. 9.
I'll stop the nostalgia tonight. But #SandraBland's death has made me even more reflective about the 1 year marker since Mike Brown's death.
— deray mckesson (@deray) July 28, 2015
Anonymous has called for Encinia’s arrest, and officials had already placed the officer on administrative leave for violating department policy in his encounter with Bland. “If you do not take Brian Encinia into custody, we will come after all of you,” Anon Intel Group said in a threat posted to its website. “All your secrets will be leaked. You will all be vulnerable. We all know where you live.”