Just days after being challenged by Black Lives Matter activists to do a better job of addressing police violence against black women in the U.S., presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Wednesday released a statement in response to new footage of Sandra Bland's arrest which he called "totally outrageous."
The development, say observers, demonstrates the power of bold action and the potential impact of the growing racial justice movement.
Dashcam footage of her arrest was released Tuesday night, showing a chain of events that betray Encinia's earlier claim that Bland had assaulted him. Instead, the footage shows that the officer escalated their encounter with threats before violently restraining her.
"This video of the arrest of Sandra Bland shows totally outrageous police behavior," Sanders stated on Wednesday. "No one should be yanked from her car, thrown to the ground, assaulted and arrested for a minor traffic stop. The result is that three days later she is dead in her jail cell. This video highlights once again why we need real police reform. People should not die for a minor traffic infraction. This type of police abuse has become an all-too-common occurrence for people of color and it must stop."
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Bland, who had recently moved to Texas from Illinois to begin a job at her alma mater of Prairie View A&M University, was pulled over by Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia on July 10 for failing to use a turn signal. She was found dead in a Waller County jail cell on July 13.
Partial footage of the arrest, filmed by a bystander, began circulating last week. Several activists staged a protest on Saturday at Netroots Nation—a progressive conference which included speeches by Sanders and his Democratic rival for president, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley—chanting "Say her name!" and challenging the candidates to give "concrete action plans" on ending police violence against black men and women.
As of this writing, neither O'Malley nor Hillary Clinton have responded to the footage released Tuesday.
Both Sanders and O'Malley were criticized over what many saw as a failure to adequately respond to that challenge. The candidates "claim that they represent all of America, but then you get up there and you see when they're pressured on issues that are specifically black they fumble," one organizer, Ashley Yeats, said in an interview on July 18. "They have to address it head-on. They have to use simple and clear language."