Austin remembers Sandra Bland with march

Wesley Story

Dozens of marchers made their way down Congress Avenue on Thursday evening chanting, “Say her name,” followed by “Sandra Bland.”

Local nonprofit Counter Balance: ATX organized a march to remember Sandra Bland on the second anniversary of her death and pay homage to all women of color who have died from police interaction. The march began at the Victory Grill on East 11th Street and made its way through East Austin to the Texas State Capitol.

Bland was found dead July 13, 2015 in her cell at the Waller County Jail after she was arrested three days earlier during a traffic stop. State trooper Brian Encinia pulled Bland over for a traffic violation and arrested her after an argument ensued between the two about whether she had to put out her cigarette.

Authorities ruled Bland’s death a suicide, but friends and members of her family have said they don’t believe she killed herself. Bland’s death and dashcam footage of the arrest sparked protests throughout the state and spurred conversations about excessive force and non-jailable offenses.

Counter Balance volunteer Geoffrey Reid said women of color represent the majority of people around the world, making them the “global majority.”

“This event is not just about remembering Sandra Bland but also women of the global majority,” Reid said. “In this country, women of color are victims of police brutality and violence and have lost their lives, but too often their names go silent.”

Counter Balance strives to improve the lives of impoverished women and women in the global majority, according to their website.

After the march, attendees remained at the Capitol to hear from speakers. One of those speakers was Sandra Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal.

Reed-Veal said she knows her daughter didn’t kill herself and announced that she is now a Texas resident and plans to stay here to fight for justice for her daughter and others like her.

“I have been drafted into this movement and I’m not going anywhere,” Reed-Veal said.

Reed-Veal said she finally received Bland’s belongings back from the jail Tuesday and decided to wear the clothes Bland was arrested in to the march.

“I decided I would step into my daughter’s shoes literally today,” Reed-Veal said. “They’re a little uncomfortable, but I’ve been uncomfortable for two years.”

Fatima Mann, the march’s organizer and co-founder of Counter Balance, worked on the so-called “Sandra Bland Act” with Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, during Texas’ 85th legislative session.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the measure into law on June 15. Among other stipulations, the act requires officers to receive de-escalation training and agencies to investigate jail deaths.

Mann said the act is important because it creates a new standard for training police officers. Mann also challenged the marchers to take a more politically active role in regards to voting and holding their representatives accountable.

“We don’t have to continue to live in a world where we’re oppressed because we’re not a part of the system oppressing us,” Mann said. “Because we’re not in there (the Capitol) when it matters, we’re out here complaining. I’m tired of complaining.”