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Thousands of people paid respect today to a black Illinois woman who died in a Texas jail earlier this month. Sandra Bland had been arrested after an altercation with a white State Police officer. She had been pulled over for an alleged traffic violation. Her family and friends say they're still searching for answers. From member station WBEZ in Chicago, Natalie Moore reports.
NATALIE MOORE, BYLINE: Inside the suburban Chicago church where Sandra Bland attended, friends and family remembered her budding activism. She was moved by the deaths of Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin. Inspired to activism in the black lives matter's campaign, the 28-year-old used her own hashtag, #SandySpeaks.
Bland had just started a new life in Texas when she was pulled over for a traffic violation by a state trooper. A heated confrontation between the two landed her in jail for three days. The FBI is investigating the altercation caught on the dashboard camera. The Waller County prosecutor released an autopsy report saying Bland committed suicide in jail. The family has said they want their own autopsy report.
Bland's mother spoke during the service and says her daughter did not take her life. The pastor said, we're not funeralizing a martyr or a victim; we're celebrating a hero. The media weren't allowed to record any of the funeral. Outside of the church, people like Tomeka Belcher held signs. Hers said #SayHerName.
TOMEKA BELCHER: Seeing what has happened to Sandra and recently seeing all of the black women that have been affected by this, I'm certainly - it's heartbreaking because I could easily be one of those women.
MOORE: Belcher didn't know Sandra Bland. She, like many others who didn't know her, showed up for the wake and funeral today. Keisha Keith is a Sigma Gamma Rho sorority sister of Bland's.
KEISHA KEITH: I'm sickened. I'm emotional. I'm - but I'm determined. Sandy is me. Sandy is a lot of us - your mother, your sister. It is all about social justice.
MOORE: Illinois senator Dick Durbin attended the funeral and says he's calling for the U.S. attorney general to launch an investigation into Bland's death. Many people here today doubt Bland committed suicide. They say after viewing the altercation on the dash cam video, she was mistreated by the state trooper. That officer has been placed on desk duty while the investigation is carried out. Lillie Jenkins sees this as another example of police brutality and wants it to stop and for officers to be...
LILLIE JENKINS: More respectful to the black peoples of how they profiling black peoples from traffic stops to just walking down the street - just the racial profiling.
MOORE: Sandra Bland's family says after they've laid her to rest, they want to start asking more questions on Monday. For NPR News, I'm Natalie Moore in Chicago.
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