We want Lynch to say her name

May 25, 2016

Leonard Klein reports from Washington, D.C. on a demonstration held demanding justice for Sandra Bland and other victims of police murder.

AS PART of coordinated national actions to #SayHerName, some 30 activists spoke out at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., on May 20 to demand that Attorney General Loretta Lynch do something about the police killings and deaths in-custody of Black cis-women, trans women, girls and femmes.

The speak-out organized by #Black Lives Matter (#BLM) and Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) was organized in coordination with events in at least nine cities on May 19 and 20, including Chicago and New York.

In D.C., as organizers called out the names of those murdered by police, the gathering roared back: "Say her name!" The list included those who have been killed by police in the D.C. area, such as Natasha McKenna, who police shocked to death with a stun gun while she was in custody at a Fairfax, Virginia, in February 2015.

Activists also spoke out for India Kager, who was killed by Virginia Beach police as her 4-month-old son sat in a car seat in the back of the car in September 2015.

The Say Her Name protest at the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C.
The Say Her Name protest at the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C. (Black Youth Project 100)

While Sandra Bland was killed far from Washington, D.C., activists said her name loudly, since her case helped shine a national spotlight on the police racism and brutality against Black women.

Bland died in Hempstead, Texas, police custody in July 2015, three days after being arrested for a minor traffic stop. Bland's arrest garnered international notice after the dashcam video showed Texas state trooper Brian Encinia threatening Bland with a stun gun and attempting to pull her out of the car.

Videos from other witnesses show Encinia throwing Bland to the ground and slamming her head into the pavement. Hempstead police claim Bland hanged herself with a trashcan liner in jail.

Despite serious doubts raised by Bland's family about the cause of her death, Lynch has yet to launch a federal investigation in to the killing.

THE CALL for Lynch to act now is especially timely, as Lynch has been receiving kudos from some activists for demanding that North Carolina's hate-filled "bathroom bill," known as House Bill 2, which codifies transgender discrimination, be struck down by May 9.

That deadline has passed, and now the Justice Departments of North Carolina and of the United States are filing suits against each other.

While this is a small taste of positive action from a presidential administration that has actively attacked civil rights or ignored civil rights violations for Blacks, for #BLM and #BYP100, Lynch's actions are far from enough.

The story of Bland's killing was just one highlighted in a #SayHerName video #BYP100 members projected on the wall of the Justice Department. As one participant said, there are thousands of Black women, trans women, girls and femmes abused and killed by police or in custody, and so far these cases are mostly ignored.

Activists vowed not to forget these victims and to #SayHerName. The speak-out closed with "Assata's Prayer":

We have a duty to fight for our freedom.
We have a duty to win.
We have a duty to love each other and to support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.

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