By Mike Talavera
On Friday, a small group of protesters stood with signs around a banner that read “Fight For Sandra Bland! Resist DPS Fascism!” at the intersection of North Lamar and Koenig. Behind them, the headquarters of the Department of Public Safety loomed, the agency responsible for the 2015 death of activist Sandra Bland.
Newly released video surfaced last week showing the now infamous traffic stop where Texas state trooper Brian Encinia intimidates Bland to exit her car before moments later tasing her and slamming her head on the ground. Unlike the previous dashcam video of the event, shot from a distance, this video is taken straight from Bland’s phone, putting the viewer in her shoes as she defiantly resists being terrorized by Encinia.
While the protest wasn’t organized by any established group, people walking to and from bus stops and those driving by in cars were strongly in favor of the protest.
“I’ve been incarcerated myself,” one Chicana woman told Incendiary, “so I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the [new] video, but I really appreciate what the [protesters] are doing out here.”
“This is great!” a black woman told Incendiary from her car. “I support anything for Sandra Bland!”
After half an hour at the street corner, the small crowd marched to the front of Thomas A. Davis, Jr. Headquarters building where a speech was given about the unchallenged brutality of DPS against the Black and Chicano nations.
“This is why they covered up the death of Sandra Bland,” she said. “This is why Sandra Bland was put in jail in the first place, because [state troopers are] encouraged to [exercise] extreme brutality against people who don’t bow down to them like lowly servants!”
The small group was surrounded by state trooper vehicles, the troopers watching the protest silently from inside, but they were not the only fascists observing. Christopher Ritchie from the Texas Nomads, who is a perennial at any far-right gathering including the violence in Charlottesville, and a couple of unidentified associates watched from afar.
Ritchie had also been filming the International Workers’ Day march in southeast Austin on May 1, where his fellow Nomad Colin Whites was struck in the head during a confrontation with marchers. He bled so badly from the gash that he had to be taken to the emergency room. Notably, Whites was not present at the Sandra Bland protest, and Ritchie was wearing a helmet.
Speakers at the protest made the connection between the institutionalized fascism of DPS and the disorganized but dangerous fascism of groups like Texas Nomads. A group of teenage skaters applauded the calls for a militant antifascist movement.
“There needs to be more of that,” one told Incendiary. “These fascists are gonna get what’s coming.”