A vigil for Sandra Bland in New York’s Union Square Park Wednesday night skirted into conspiracy theory territory as protesters carried signs saying Bland had been “killed” and speakers suggested the failure to charge anyone in her death was a sign that justice had not been served.
Video of the vigil shows a hand drawn sign that read, “Sandra Bland…Arrested for traffic violation…KILLED in police custody…Black Lives Matter.”
The video also shows a young man reading a poem by June Jordan titled “Poem About Police Violence”–which, while several decades old, fits into the context of the crowd’s outrage:
Tell me something/ what you think would happen if/ everytime they kill a black boy/ then we kill a cop/ everytime they kill a black man/ then we kill a cop/ you think the accident rate would lower/ subsequently?
Another video uploaded to You Tube shows a series of speakers, one of whom identifies herself as an “angry Mexican woman” shouts to the crowd, “Sandra Bland was murdered.” The same woman also had a message for police: “For any cop out there being condescending, for any sergeant out there being condescending because of our pain…fuck you! Fuck! You!” This brought cheers and applause from the gathered crowd.
Tuesday night a similar gathering of activists in Baltimore was led by a speaker who shouted, “That sister didn’t hang herself, she was lynched! And she was lynched just like ancestors before her.”
Activists connected to the Black Lives Matter movement have consistently treated Bland’s death as a murder by police. BLM leader Deray McKesson used his sizable social media platform to claim Bland had been murdered by the police and also helped spread a conspiracy theory that Bland was dead before her mug shot was even taken. That theory was debunked when police released video of Bland being booked into the jail.
The idea that Bland had been murdered and that the murder was being covered up by police became so widespread that even Kim Kardashian felt the need to tweet about it.
Sandra Bland was pulled over for a traffic violation on July 10, 2015. The stop became confrontational after the officer ordered Bland out of the car. She was arrested and three days later she was found dead in her cell in Waller County, Texas.
An autopsy found that Bland had killed herself by hanging and that there were no signs of any struggle to indicate violence was committed against her. Her body did have some recent scarring consistent with self-harm and she admitted to a previous suicide attempt on her intake form.
Last week a grand jury decided there would be no indictment in connection with Bland’s death. Special prosecutor Darrell Jordan told CNN, “The grand jury has looked at all the evidence and found no evidence of murder.”