“Okay, ma’am. You okay?” he asks. She replies, testily: “I’m waiting on you. This is your job. I’m waiting on, whatever you ...” Encinia says, “I don’t know. You seem very, very irritated.”
Bland explains that she’s upset because she felt like he was tailing her so she got over to get out of his way, and now she’s been pulled over for not signaling. Like many African Americans, she may have seen the stop as a result of “driving while black”—being racially profiled, and then pulled over on some minor pretext. (Friends have noted that she was upset about police brutality in recent months.) As a graduate of Prairie View A&M, she was also probably familiar with the history of tension between African Americans and law enforcement in the area.
Encinia, just as testily, says: “Are you done?”
“You asked me what was wrong, and I told you, so now I’m done, yeah,” Bland replies. He then asks her, politely, to put out her cigarette. She says she doesn’t want to, and she’s in her own car.
That’s where things really go deeply wrong. Encinia says, “You can step on out of the car,” and she declines. He then orders her to step out of the car. He clarifies a few moments later that this is a “lawful order,” a legal term for a demand with which she is required to comply. But why did he issue the order? She seems understandably baffled, and asks him to explain. Encinia never offers a good reason for why he’s ordering her out of the car, and it’s tough to see anything in the order except spite and anger at being questioned by a citizen acting within her rights.
Encinia threatens to tase Bland—“I will light you up!”—and drags her out of the car. He also calls for back up. He tells her he was only going to give her a warning, but now she’s going to to be arrested. She demands, as is her right, to know why she’s being arrested. He doesn’t answer immediately, though later he says she’s “not compliant.” He accuses her of resisting arrest, and she says he’s jerking her around. This is a common pattern in disputed arrests: Police charge suspects for resisting arrest in cases where advocates say the people are not resisting, or in which they are being physically moved by officers who cite the movement as evidence of resistance. The video doesn’t offer any compelling evidence that she is resisting arrest, despite her obvious anger at the officer and a growing string of obscenities. (At one point, she says, “South Carolina has y’all’s bitch asses scared.”)
Later, after another officer arrives, she’s tackled to the ground and protests, “I have epilepsy!” Encinia answers: “Good.” Encinia also tells a bystander—whose clip of part of the encounter was previously released—to stop filming, though he appears to be within his rights in recording the encounter. (Bland shouts, “Thank you for recording!”)