UPDATE: December 22, 2015, 2:17am ET: Democratic presidential hopefuls, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley have not issued statements in response to the grand jury’s decision not to bring indictments in the death of Sandra Bland. Neither has any GOP presidential hopeful, but this probably goes without saying.
In the wake of a Texas grand jury’s decision not to bring indictments in the death of Sandra Bland, Democratic presidential hopeful Gov. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), issued a statement via Twitter saying that there is “no doubt she would be alive today if she were a white woman.”
As previously reported by Hello Beautiful, the grand jury convened for eight hours on Monday before announcing its decision.
Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, is pursuing damages against the Texas Department of Public Safety, State Trooper Brian Encinia, who instigated the traffic stop that led to Bland’s arrest, Waller County and the two jailers that should have been monitoring Bland while she was in custody.
“We are not going to allow what they have done in a limited, secret capacity to prevent us from doing what we need to do to get answers for the family,” Bland family attorney Cannon Lambert told CNN affiliate KPRC.
This is not Sanders’ first time speaking out for Sandra Bland. After police dashcam footage was released in July, Sanders issued the following statement:
“This video of the arrest of Sandra Bland shows totally outrageous police behavior. 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.”
Sanders was also the first presidential candidate to #SayHerName on the national stage, keeping a promise to Bland’s family after a chance encounter with them on Oct. 8, at a cafe in Washington, D.C., just five days before the first Democratic debate.
“What happened to your daughter is inexcusable,” he told Reed-Veal. “We are broken, and this has exposed us.”
When the question “Do Black lives matter, or do all lives matter?” was asked by Arthur Sterling Wilkins from Des Moines, Iowa via Facebook, debate moderate CNN’s Anderson Cooper put the question to Sanders, who said:
“Black lives matter. And the reason those words matter is the African American community knows that on any given day, some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car and then three days later she’s going to end up dead in jail, or their kids are going to get shot. We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom and we need major, major reforms in a broken criminal justice system.”
Sanders, who went on to say Bland’s name on major networks from CNN to MSNBC, has faced pressure from Black activists to speak specifically to the epidemic of police brutality and its disproportionate effects in Black communities, has been the only Democratic presidential hopeful not to sidestep the issue of institutionalized racism.
During the third and final Democratic debate of 2015, Sanders had this to say on the issue of police brutality:
“Police officers shouldn’t be shooting unarmed people, predominantly African Americans.”
Sanders gained a huge supporter in the African American community when Atlanta rapper Killer Mike endorsed him for president during a campaign stop. The rapper and the presidential hopeful ate at famed Atlanta soul food restaurant Busy Bee, after which Killer Mike said, “I have said in many a rap, I don’t trust the church or the government, a Democrat, Republican, a pope, a bishop or those other men. But after spending five hours tonight, after spending five hours with someone who has spent the last 50 years radically fighting for your rights and mine, I can tell you that am very proud tonight to announce the next president of the United States, Sen. Bernie Sanders.”