BLACK VOICES

Petitions Call For Feds To Investigate Sandra Bland's Death

"It's important for us to speak up for Sandra Bland."

This past Sunday, Lois Wilkins talked to her daughter Ebony Joy Wilkins about Sandra Bland’s death. Her 38-year-old daughter commented that she could have been in Bland's shoes and that if she ever died in police custody, her mom shouldn't believe it was suicide. The next day, Wilkins launched a MoveOn petition calling for an "immediate and independent federal investigation" into Bland's death. 

Bland, 28, was pulled over on July 10 in Waller County, Texas, for failure to signal. After allegedly assaulting the officer, she was arrested and taken to jail. Three days later, she was found dead in her cell. Investigators have said Bland’s autopsy findings are consistent with suicide.

But many people, including Wilkins and Bland's family, remain suspicious of the Waller County Sheriff's Office and concerned about the pattern of police brutality in America. Despite the autopsy's findings, Wilkins said she believes the officer mishandled Bland's traffic stop and should be held accountable.

“As her community, [we] should be able to know what actually happened,” Lois Wilkins, 61, told The Huffington Post. "What are the facts? I just don’t believe that the local police are actually reflecting that. They’re taking too long." 

Since its launch on Monday, her MoveOn petition had amassed more than 300,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon -- and was about 16,000 shy of its stated goal of 325,000.

Sandra Bland died in a Texas jail three days after she was pulled over for a traffic violation.
Sandra Bland died in a Texas jail three days after she was pulled over for a traffic violation.

On Change.org, another petition is making many of the same pleas, demanding that Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the U.S. Department of Justice take over the investigation. That petition had gathered more than 200,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon.

“There’s no reason why we should be fearful [because] of profiling tactics,” Wilkins said. “It’s important for us to speak up for Sandra Bland, who is not able to speak for herself right now." 

Wilkins is pleased with the amount of attention her petition has received, but she said it's only the first step in finding the answers.

“We have to have some clarity around what we really mean when we give the police the authority to govern our communities or help keep us safe," she said. "Because I’m not sure that message of them keeping us safe is existing in the black community, generally speaking."

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