A special City Council meeting to address the tasing and arrest of an African American councilman in the same Texas city where Sandra Bland was arrested has been canceled — but some outraged residents plan to meet anyway.
Councilman Jonathan Miller was tased late last Thursday after he attempted to intervene with police officers who had stopped to question his friends in front of his apartment in Prairie View, a majority African American city about 50 miles northwest of Houston.
Miller, 26, who knew the officers, was arrested for interfering with a public servant and resisting. He was held overnight in the same county jail where Bland, 28, died after being stopped in July for failing to signal a lane change.
Miller has yet to be charged and his case has been turned over to the district attorney.
Mayor Frank Jackson, who is also African American, on Monday called a special City Council meeting with the police chief to address the incident. The council was to meet at 12:45 p.m. Thursday. But about 8:45 p.m. Wednesday, he canceled the meeting on the advice of city attorneys.
“They said it would be best ... to hold off and let them do the investigation,” Jackson told the Los Angeles Times. “They’re telling us to stand down and let the facts come out and then you can meet.”
Jackson said he called each of the five council members, all of whom are African American, and notified them of the cancellation.
“It’s only fair to him that we wait and let an independent party, the DA, make an investigation,” Jackson said of Miller.
Jackson said that if residents gather anyway, it will be “an unauthorized meeting” and “I can’t participate in that.”
“I’m not going to sit there and get into speculating” about the case, he said. “They should wait and let the DA do his job. Because we want to be fair to everybody.”
Councilwoman Marie Herndon, who picked Miller up from jail, is among those outraged by his arrest who plan to meet Thursday as planned.
“It’s been mishandled and it has not been fairly done. He hasn’t been given a fair shake. Any time you don’t share with the council what’s going on — what is going on?” said Herndon, who has served since 2002 and said she “has never seen a councilman treated like this.”
“There’s going to be a group tomorrow asking for answers — tell us what’s going on,” she said.
Miller said he was “curious why the meeting was canceled” and unsure whether he would meet with residents.
“I may show up for a little bit. I haven’t decided yet,” he told The Times late Wednesday.
Miller, who graduated from Prairie View A&M University this year with a degree in education, has been substitute teaching and worries the arrest could hurt his prospects.
Miller’s tasing was captured on videos released by police and went viral, just as videos of Bland’s arrest in July had.
“I have always prided myself on never having been to jail. Until this point, I had never been in handcuffs, never sat on the curb. The youth I speak to and tell them to take pride in themselves, I can’t say that anymore,” he said.
But he’s glad the incident was captured on video, which he said shows police – two officers he knew, an African American woman and white man – using excessive force.
“I just hope from this something is learned, not only in Prairie View but in some other cities where things like this have happened,” Miller said. “These officers really need to understand that we’re people.”
The video of Bland’s traffic stop, along with authorities’ narrative of the incident, helped fuel debate about racial profiling and police tactics. Bland, who was black, argued with officers, was arrested and jailed. Days later, she was found dead in her cell.
Her death was ruled a suicide, but Bland’s family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against state and county law enforcement.
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